Master of Shadows: The Secret Diplomatic Career of the Painter Peter Paul Rubens

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9780385523790: Master of Shadows: The Secret Diplomatic Career of the Painter Peter Paul Rubens
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 The true story of how seventeenth-century Europe's most famous painter doubled as a secret agent and negotiated a peace between superpowers.

Peter Paul Rubens is best remembered as the Old Master with the penchant for fleshy, pink nudes whose popularity was eclipsed by that of Rembrandt van Rijn. In his time, however, Rubens had no equal; his contemporaries revered him as the greatest painter of his era, if not in all history. His undeniable artistic genius, bolstered by a modest disposition and a reputation as a man of tact and discretion, made him a favorite among monarchs and political leaders across Europe, and gave him perfect cover for the clandestine activities that shaped the landscape of seventeenth-century politics.

In Master of Shadows, Mark Lamster tells the story of Rubens's life and brilliantly re-creates the culture, religious conflicts, and political intrigues of his time. Commissions to paint military and political leaders drew Rubens from his Antwerp home to London, Madrid, Paris, and Rome. The Spanish crown, recognizing the value of his easy access to figures of power, enlisted him into diplomatic service. His uncommon intelligence, preternatural charm, and ability to navigate through ever-shifting political winds allowed him to negotiate a long-sought peace treaty between England and Spain even as Europe's shrewdest statesmen plotted against him.

Master of Shadows weaves a gripping drama of cloak-and-dagger diplomacy with an insightful, authoritative exploration of Rubens's art and the private passions that influenced it.

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Review:


Mark Lamster on Master of Shadows

Peter Paul Rubens gives us a lot to think about in his canvasses of rushing color, action, and puckered flesh, so it’s not surprising that his work as a diplomat and spy has been neglected. One of my goals in writing Master of Shadows was to fill that gap in the record. Here, after all, is an actual Old Master using actual secret codes, dodging assassination, plotting the overthrow of foreign governments, and secretly negotiating for world peace.

Certainly, a biographer could not ask for a more compelling subject. Rubens was a charismatic man of extraordinary learning, fluent in six languages, who made a fortune from his art. He never fit the paradigm of the artist as a self-destructive figure at odds with convention. More than one of his contemporaries actually thought his skill as a statesman surpassed his unmatched talent before an easel.

Though it is set four centuries ago, I believe readers will find the Rubens story deeply resonant with contemporary experience. Rubens was a moderate man in a dogmatic time, a pragmatist who spent much of his life working to end a seemingly intractable conflict driven by ideologues. In writing the book, I was routinely astonished by the eerie parallels between his time and our own. The political battles he fought naturally inform his paintings, many of which serve as meditations on the costs and ravages of war. In illuminating this history, I hope Master of Shadows will help modern audiences recapture some of the urgency and grandeur of his work--and his riveting life. --Mark Lamster

(Photo © Blip Studio)

About the Author:

MARK LAMSTER writes on the arts and culture for many publications, including the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Metropolis, Print, and ID. His first book, Spalding's World Tour, was an Editor's Choice selection of the New York Times Book Review. He lives in New York City.

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9780307387356: Master of Shadows: The Secret Diplomatic Career of the Painter Peter Paul Rubens

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ISBN 10:  0307387356 ISBN 13:  9780307387356
Publisher: Anchor, 2010
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Book Description Nan A. Talese October 2009, 2009. Hardcover. Condition: New. The true story of how seventeenth-century Europe's most famous painter doubled as a secret agent and negotiated a peace between superpowers.Peter Paul Rubens is best remembered as the Old Master with the penchant for fleshy, pink nudes whose popularity was eclipsed by that of Rembrandt van Rijn. In his time, however, Rubens had no equal; his contemporaries revered him as the greatest painter of his era, if not in all history. His undeniable artistic genius, bolstered by a modest disposition and a reputation as a man of tact and discretion, made him a favorite among monarchs and political leaders across Europe, and gave him perfect cover for the clandestine activities that shaped the landscape of seventeenth-century politics.In 'Master of Shadows,' Mark Lamster tells the story of Rubens' life and brilliantly re-creates the culture, religious conflicts, and political intrigues of his time. Commissions to paint military and political leaders drew Rubens from his Antwerp home to London, Madrid, Paris, and Rome. The Spanish crown, recognizing the value of his easy access to figures of power, enlisted him into diplomatic service. His uncommon intelligence, preternatural charm, and ability to navigate through ever-shifting political winds allowed him to negotiate a long-sought peace treaty between England and Spain even as Europe's shrewdest statesmen plotted against him. 'Master of Shadows' weaves a gripping drama of cloak-and-dagger diplomacy with an insightful, authoritative exploration of Rubens' art and the private passions that influenced it. Master of Shadows weaves a gripping drama of 17th-century cloak-and-dagger diplomacy with an insightful, authoritative exploration of Peter Paul Rubens' art and the private passions that influenced it. Seller Inventory # 20110209128832

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