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Stealing the Mystic Lamb: The True Story of the World's Most Coveted Masterpiece Paperback


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: PublicAffairs (April 3, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1610390962
  • ISBN-13: 978-1610390965
  • Product Dimensions: 8.8 x 5.7 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #517,556 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review


Kirkus, July 15, 2010

“Charney unsnarls the tangled history of Jan van Eyck’s 15th-century The Ghent Altarpiece (aka The Mystic Lamb), 'the most desired and victimized object of all time.' With a novelist’s sense of structure and tension, the author adds an easy familiarity with the techniques of oil painting and with the intertwining vines of art and political and religious history…. A brisk tale of true-life heroism, villainy, artistry and passion.”


 


Christian Science Monitor, August 30, 2010

"[A]ction-packed…. In scrupulous detail, Charney divulges the secrets of the revered painting’s past, and in doing so, gives readers a history lesson on art crime, a still-prospering black market.”
 
Cleveland Plain Dealer, October 14, 2010

“Well-written and thorough, this book reminds us of the influence and fragility of art, our veniality and heroism, and the delights found in both the beautiful and the strange.”
 
Maclean’s, October 14, 2010

“In Charney’s hand, the story of the various heists often reads like a political thriller.”
 
Catholic Herald, December 13, 2010

“Charney’s wonderfully learned and entertaining book tells us about all the indignities this famous image has endured through the centuries… but the book also has some much broader point to make about the cultural significance of important paintings… Charney tackles some important subjects (the creation of the modern art-stealing industry, our sensible obsession with almost burglar-proof museums) but he wears his learning lightly and the next extraordinary tale is only ever a few pages away. Best of a very good bunch must be the account of the Monuments Men: the highly qualified people who followed in the wake of the liberating armies at the end of World War Two… It is good to hear their story and all the other bizarre tales this innovative and elegant book has to tell.”

 



About the Author

Noah Charney is the author of the international bestselling novel The Art Thief and is the founding director of The Association for Research into Crimes against Art, an international nonprofit think tank. Currently professor of art history at the American University of Rome, he lives in Italy with his wife.

More About the Author

Noah Charney holds advanced degrees in art history from The Courtauld Institute and Cambridge University. He is the founding director of ARCA, the Association for Research into Crimes against Art, a non-profit think tank and consultancy group on issues in art crime (www.artcrime.info). His work in the field of art crime has been praised in such forums as The New York Times Magazine, Time Magazine, Vanity Fair, BBC Radio, and National Public Radio, among others. Charney is the author of numerous articles, works of non-fiction, and an internationally best-selling novel, "The Art Thief" (Atria 2007), currently translated into sixteen languages. He is the editor of "Art & Crime: Exploring the Dark Side of the Art World" (Praeger 2009), and the author of a series of art history guides to Spanish museums entitled "Museum Time," published in Spanish and English (Planeta 2010). He published "Stealing the Mystic Lamb: The True History of the World's Most Frequently Stolen Masterpiece" with PublicAffairs in 2010. This critically-acclaimed work of non-fiction is an international best-seller. His latest book is "The Thefts of the Mona Lisa: On Stealing the World's Most Famous Painting," all profits from which support charity. He lives in Italy, and is currently Adjunct Professor of Art History at the American University of Rome.

Customer Reviews

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I would recommend this book to those interested in art history.
margaretmarshall
I found out about this book through my interest in artworks lost, stolen, and looted during WWII.
northkona
It has parts that read like a mystery, and parts that read like a history book.
Lynne A. Sims

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By foxglove on July 10, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The book was in many ways a delight, but the author or his editor permitted countless repetitions that made me wonder: Was this book was put together from a series of articles written for a magazine that were published over several months?

The subject matter was fascinating, I would recommend it to anyone, but what might have been a great book was reduced to be just a pretty good book by the sloppy repetitions.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By T. Coner on October 15, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I can't recommended this book enough to those who love to learn more about how Art history doesn't just comment on the history of the world around it but an active and undeniable provocateur at the base of it.

Stealing The Mystic Lamb is one of the most readable historical novels I've ever come across, (it helps that two of my favorite topics were already Art History and European history.) I have been studying many of these art pieces personally while an art student in Europe and America, but this book was able to set itself apart for me by really tying together the world and events simultaneously taking place.

Charney has written some of the most enjoyable and certainly most modern descriptions of these priceless art works, a true feat given the volume of descriptions already out there. I also highly recommend this book to anyone looking to jump into Art History, as it is explanative enough for the absolute beginner...but it also thorough and expansive enough for an avid art history student like myself to enjoy.

This book may not be as in depth and detailed towards individual pieces or artists as other art history books by more academic sources (art journals, etc.) but that is not the point of this book. This book is about the history of one piece of art and how that piece's history has influnced not just other artist's but the political, religous, and military superpowers in each century since.

This book is an knockout!
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Ben Davies on September 29, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The chapters have a wonderful dramatic arc and I found the story of how the painting was repeatedly stolen very easy to read. It is an utterly convincing book with a precise regard for detail, and yet without being too bogged down. Who would have thought that a single painting could contain so much and have such a fascinating history. I loved the chapter called 'Thieves in the Cathedral'. I got a very visual sense - as in a film. Would highly recommend this!
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful By M. A Newman VINE VOICE on March 18, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a very interesting book, but even at a mere 288 pages, it does have a tendency to drag. Noah Charney does have an interesting tale to tell, it is just he takes a long time getting there.

The Mystic Lamb is not really a single work, but a series of panels painted between 1426-32 by Jan Van Eyck, the great painter of Ghent. The panels make up the altarpiece of the cathedral of Saint Bavo. It has been described as the last great painting of the Middle Ages or the first great painting of the Renaissance. It features 24 panels including portraits of the Virgin Mary, Adam and Eve, John the Baptist, the two donors, and an annunciation scene. At the center of the altarpiece is an allegorical series featuring a lamb sacrificing itself to save humanity.

The most interesting portion of the book deals with the actual construction and execution of the altarpiece. Van Eyck, though not the inventor of oil paint, he was probably the world's first master of this medium. The vivid colours of the Ghent altarpiece are a testimony to the skill and imagination of the artist that painted it and the revolutionary techniques that Van Eyck perfected that still resonate to this very day.

The altarpiece had numerous second lives after it had become an object of religious veneration primarily as loot for numerous armies, emperors, and even was the subject of a bizarre competition between Hitler and Goering. It survived campaigns by Reformation Protestants who wanted to burn it as idolatrous, the theft of its left and right panels, which were only returned after WWI as well as concealment in an imperfectly bomb rigged salt mine in Austria.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Brian Morgan on January 13, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book, written by a very prolific writer, concerns one of the world's most fascinating examples of Sacred Art, the Ghent Altar-piece, which dates from the early 15th century.

This reviewer would not question Noah Charney's qualifications as an art historian, but the subject of this particular masterpiece, which is replete with heavy symbolism, displays his poor knowledge of Christianity. He refers to Blessed Fra Angelico, a Dominican friar ("Fra"), as a monk (page 7). He anachronistically refers to an ancient translation of the Blessed Virgin Mary's words at the Annunciation as "politically correct," and displays his arrogance and disrespect toward theology which he does not understand: "Even back then, virgin pregnancy sounded a bit suspect" (page 11). He accepts (without discussion) that the figure wearing the Triple Tiara is God the Father, but this is disputed, many believing the figure to be Christ the King.

On page 47, the author confuses Limbo with Purgatory, and makes hash of the Catholic tradition of praying for the dead. On page 72, he does not even make an attempt to understand the granting of Indulgences.

In discussing (if that be the mot juste of such careless writing) the Allied bombing of Monte Cassino (page 219), he blindly accepts the victors' version of history, where one makes violence upon suspicion, as later with our suspected "Weapons of Mass Destruction."

Moving from religious topics, we have a real howler on page 278, when he writes that the great Lincoln Kirstein "went on to direct the Metropolitan Opera." Indeed, it was probably a mistake to quote Kirstein's writings, since we can see the chasm of quality between Kirstein and Charney, whose efforts read like that of a schoolboy in comparison.
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