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Synopsis: Title: The Art Thief <>Binding: Paperback <>Author: NoahCharney <>Publisher: WashingtonSquarePress
Rome: In the small Baroque church of Santa Giuliana, a magnificent Caravaggio altarpiece disappears without a trace in the middle of the night.
Paris: In the basement vault of the Malevich Society, curator Geneviéve Delacloche is shocked to discover the disappearance of the Society's greatest treasure, White-on-White by Suprematist painter Kasimir Malevich.
London: At the National Gallery of Modern Art, the museum's latest acquisition is stolen just hours after it was purchased for more than six million pounds.
In The Art Thief, three thefts are simultaneously investigated in three cities, but these apparently isolated crimes have much more in common than anyone imagines. In Rome, the police enlist the help of renowned art investigator Gabriel Coffin when tracking down the stolen masterpiece. In Paris, Geneviéve Delacloche is aided by Police Inspector Jean-Jacques Bizot, who finds a trail of bizarre clues and puzzles that leads him ever deeper into a baffling conspiracy. In London, Inspector Harry Wickenden of Scotland Yard oversees the museum's attempts to ransom back its stolen painting, only to have the masterpiece's recovery deepen the mystery even further.
A dizzying array of forgeries, overpaintings, and double-crosses unfolds as the story races through auction houses, museums, and private galleries--and the secret places where priceless works of art are made available to collectors who will stop at nothing to satisfy their hearts' desires.
Full of fascinating art-historical detail, crackling dialogue, and a brain-teasing plot, Noah Charney's debut novel is a sophisticated, stylish thriller, as irresistible and multifaceted as a great work of art."The Man Who Stole the Mona Lisa"
The Mona Lisa theft was the subject of international headlines, but the police made no headway in its recovery. They interviewed hundreds of people, including the man eventually uncovered as the thief, with little result. Years passed. And then, in Florence, an art dealer received a note saying that someone in possession of the Mona Lisa wished to donate it to the Uffizi. At first, the dealer thought it was a joke. But he contacted the director of the Uffizi museum, and the two met the possessor of the Mona Lisa in his hotel. They authenticated the masterpiece and called the police.
The thief turned out to be Vincenzo Peruggia, an Italian glazier who had once lived in Paris. He had, ironically enough, been hired along with other glaziers to install protective glass over some of the Louvre's most famous paintings, to protect them from potential vandals. Peruggia believed that the Mona Lisa had been stolen from Italy by Napoleon, and claimed that he stole it only for his wish to repatriate it. While Napoleon was guilty of the greatest number of art thefts of any individual in history, he was not guilty in this instance. The Mona Lisa had been a favorite painting of Leonardo's. When Leonardo moved to France to work for King Francois I near the end of his life, he brought the Mona Lisa with him. When he died, his possessions passed on to the king of France. But Peruggia seemed firmly to believe that he was a national hero, reclaiming one of Italy’s greatest masterpieces from the thieving French who had stolen it away. In returning the painting to Italy, the man who stole the Mona Lisa had not so much been caught as he had simply presented himself to an unsympathetic audience.
Noah Charney's Top Ten Must-See Artworks in the USA
Edward Hopper: Nighthawks (1942)
Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL
Hopper's is a dark America. Foreboding in its brightness, ominous in the strong harsh colors, dark without shadows, lonely in crowds, tender-heart helpless in a kingdom of advantages. His characters are taking advantage or being taken advantage of. The subtext of Hopper’s works defies their surface opacity--we think we see everything clearly, understand the moment portrayed, until we stare further. A cottony doubt creeps in from the edges of his paintings. Where is the darkness in this land of light? It is in the oxygen in Hopper's trapped rooms and nightscapes. No wonder that Hitchcock modeled his cinematography and sets to resemble Hopper’s backdrops. In Nighthawks, we learn how lonely a city can be. A painted Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Hopper's protagonists seek comfort and companionship in an ocean of fellow humans, and find none. Like cave dwellers huddled around a fire, the nighthawks of the title lean into the counter of a late-night diner for safety. We have a sense that they could help each other float in the aquatic darkness, if only they realized it.
Norman Rockwell: The Four Freedoms (1943)
Norman Rockwell Museum, Stockbridge, MA
Rockwell is the painter most closely associated with Americana, intermingling myth and truth, a mist of the desired, actual, and dreamt--of values of American life. His work is best known for the prints of it which appeared in the now-extinct Saturday Evening Pos, scenes of rural, wholesome sweetness tinged with nationalism and the occasional daub of politics. Rockwell is an American icon, but in one set of paintings, he elevates himself to a place in the Canon. Painted in seven months in 1943, in a fit of passion during which he lost 15 pounds, Rockwell's four-painting Freedoms series was inspired by a speech made by President Roosevelt, who declared that four principle freedoms were the rights of every human being: freedom of speech, freedom from want, freedom to worship, and freedom from fear. Perhaps most iconic of the group, Freedom from Want shows a hard-working family sitting down to a Thanksgiving meal prepared by Grandma, offering suitable thanks for the feast at hand. Freedom of Speech, however, is Rockwell's best and most subtle work, as he himself stated. At a town meeting, a man stands to speak. He is a hard worker, a man of limited education and few words, but of a strong heart and a goodness bound up in his eyes. He is unsure of himself, but so moved by the subject at hand and empowered by the knowledge of his freedom to do so, he addresses the crowd. To painting what Frank Capra's Mr. Smith Goes to Washington was to film, this work and indeed Rockwell's oeuvre, makes one proud to be American, and calls on us today to revitalize the values upon which America was founded, to coax reality back out from the myth.
Gainsborough: Portrait of Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire (1783)
National Gallery of Art, Washington DC
The theft of this masterpiece was the first major art theft of the Modern period, when art crime first became a significant criminal enterprise. At midnight in May of 1876, two men walked briskly along Old Bond Street in London. Through the fog and darkness, a short, slender man with a handlebar moustache and an enormous bear of a man towering beside him could perhaps just have been made out. They stopped in front of the elegant and renowned Agnew Gallery—a name that had been splashed across the front pages of the newspapers in the preceding weeks. Thomas Agnew had purchased Thomas Gainsborough's Portrait of Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire for a record-breaking auction price of 10,000 guineas. Agnew had agreed on a resale price to an American banker, Junius Morgan, who planned to give the portrait to his son, J. P. Morgan. The portrait was to be displayed for two weeks at Agnew’s Gallery before its acquisition by the Morgans.
But Adam Worth had other plans. Adam Worth was perhaps the most successful thief in history. His criminal career spanned continents. Bank robbery, train robbery, diamond smuggling, running an international organized crime syndicate—he succeeded in every criminal enterprise he pursued, including art theft. A journalist gave him the nickname "The Napoleon of Crime" for his diminutive stature and grand criminal genius, a title appropriated by Conan Doyle for his villainous character, Professor Moriarty.
On that May night, the bear of a man lifted Worth up to the second floor window ledge of the Agnew Gallery. Worth pried open the window with a crowbar and slipped inside. With surgical precision, he sliced the canvas painting from its stretcher, then disappeared into the night as the guard slept downstairs. The police were baffled. All that they could piece together was that the thief was wearing hob-nailed boots, and may or may not have been left-handed. Worth kept the portrait for 25 years, through prison sentences and his pursuit by his own real-life Sherlock Holmes, William Pinkerton of the Pinkerton Agency. Worth finally returned the painting to J. P. Morgan, for a price that allowed him to retire from crime. From its place on the wall of the National Gallery today, you might infer a look of relief onto the face of the kidnap victim, finally in a place of rest and safety.
Walter de Maria: Lightning Field (1977)
In a remote area of the high desert in New Mexico, this installation is comprised of 400 steel poles arranged in a great grid of one square mile by one square kilometer. The poles are two inches thick and average 20 feet 7 inches in height, spaced 220 feet apart. They present a sculpture that you can walk through, or experience from afar as a natural performance.
In the tiny village of Quernado, New Mexico, there is an agency which will drive you out to a rustic cabin in the desert. This cabin has basic provisions for one-night stays, rough wooden walls, two bedrooms, a bath, and most importantly, a long wind-blown porch lined with rocking chairs which nod in the endless breeze. From this porch, you may gaze across a mile of flat empty desert to the Lightning Field. This area has been carefully selected because, between May and September, it is a cauldron of electrical storms. Most nights a fearsome, rainless, tumbling cloud descends and produces claps of thunder and bolts of lightning, which are drawn to the steel poles. De Maria uses the forces of man to lure down nature, without controlling it. He has made a pact with nature, in which she will perform for him, guiding her lightning tendrils down to the field of his design. The resulting lightning show inspires awe, fear, beauty, and most of all, a sense of the sublime. The definition of the sublime is a sensation which combines beauty and horror, emphasizing the relative insignificance and weakness of man in the face of nature's vastness. What better example of nature’s power than the wiry, muscular harpoons of her lightning bolts, cracking at the earth. It is the privilege of the viewer of this work to rock gently on the cabin porch and gaze at the glass-caged maelstrom of De Maria's masterpiece.
Robert Smithson: Spiral Jetty (1970)
Great Salt Lake, UT
Using black basalt rocks from the site, Smithson built a coil 1,500 feet long and 15 feet wide that miters its way into the clay-red lake water. It must be reached by car, following tortuous directions through the Golden Spike National Historic Site. The work has altered over time, as the waters of the lake have shifted the initial spiral. It is now mostly submerged in the water. It is also a work that is only fully legible when seen from the sky. From the earth beside it, one has only a loose sense of its shepherd's crook form. We are meant, therefore, to be aware of something larger than ourselves, something that we, in a simple and unaided capacity, cannot wholly take in. The spiral form is one which occurs constantly in nature, mathematically recessing inward. And at this great size, the natural form becomes totemic. Like Stonehenge or the heads on Easter Island, we encounter a monumental man-made construction whose purpose escapes us. But in this age, we feel comfortable checking the box that calls it art, and leaving it at that. Like De Maria's Lightning Field, reaching Spiral Jetty requires a pilgrimage. It will not be stumbled upon, hanging in a museum with countless other works. The experience is heightened because of the journey required. The savor on the tongue of the approaching goal as the car shudders from side to side on rough dirt roads, the very act of pilgrimage, raises the sense of the import of the experience and the reward of the destination.
Ansel Adams: Moon and Half Dome (1960)
Adams Gallery, Yosemite National Park, CA
The wild glories of the American wilderness must be experienced. They are difficult to trap in a work of art, of any medium. But while the entirety eludes us, pieces of it can be caught and admired in frame cages. What Ansel Adams achieves is a fistful of gorgeous splinters of the American wilderness. Each photograph is a narrow portrayal of an element of the whole, like the mirror of nature shattered, the shards gathered up and framed individually. Adams's popularity has limited his critical acclaim, but we must not assume that what is popular is without true artistic merit. Ansel Adams’s work best captures in art the untameable American wilderness. Although most of the areas he photographed are now preserved as national parks, one may wander an exhibit of his work and wonder what viewers a millenium hence might think of the by then extinct wilds of America. What if Adams's works were mementos of a nature that no longer existed, like a skeletal brontosaurus whose existence we must only imagine from what remains?
Thomas Eakins: The Gross Clinic(1875)
Jefferson Medical College, Philadelphia, PA
The room is dark round the edges, spotlit. At Jefferson Medical College, the clinic's director, Dr. Gross, operates on a young man for osteomyelitis of the femur, narrating the procedure to his medical students, who sit round the operating theater, straining for a better view. Dr. Gross performs a conservative operation, rather than amputation, which had been the only solution for the ailment in question before his time. The moment we see is still prior to the adoption of hygenic surgical equipment. But we are witness to a new era of medicine, captured in a frozen awe of science, the new magic. A contemporary review read: "one of the most power...
Title: The Art Thief
Publisher: Washington Square/Pocket Bks
Publication Date: 2008
Book Condition: Good
Edition: Later Printing.
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