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Non-Fiction - STEALING THE MYSTIC LAMB

 

Review Date: July 15, 2010
Publisher:PublicAffairs
Pages: 336
Price ( Hardback ): $27.95
Publication Date: October 5, 2010
ISBN ( Hardback ): 978-1-58648-800-0
Category: Nonfiction

Charney (Art History/American Univ. of Rome; The Art Thief, 2007, etc.) 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. He begins near the end of World War II. As the Reich’s military fortunes crumbled, the Allies scrambled to find where the Nazis concealed their tens of thousands of stolen artworks, many slated for Hitler’s proposed “super museum.” Among them was the Altarpiece. Charney pauses to describe the large work, which comprises 20 individual painted panels, hinged together. Art historians admire it not just for its supreme craftsmanship—described clearly by the author—but also for its historical significance as the world’s first major oil painting. Charney also lists a number of “firsts” that the work represents (e.g., the first to use directed spotlighting) and sketches the biography of van Eyck, which makes Shakespeare’s seem richly detailed by comparison. Commissioned to create the altarpiece for the Saint Bavo Cathedral in Ghent, Belgium, van Eyck took some six years to complete it. As religious and political strife waxed and waned, the painting was always in danger. The Calvinists didn’t like it (the Catholics promptly hid it); Napoleon, perhaps history’s greatest art thief, craved it; a cathedral fire threatened it; the Germans came for it in WWI and again in WWII. Even now, one panel remains at large, though some argue that the replacement copy is actually the original.

A brisk tale of true-life heroism, villainy, artistry and passion.

8-page color photo insert. Agent: Eleanor Jackson/Elaine Markson Agency

You may buy the book here: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

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Publication:
The Mail on Sunday
Date:
January 2010
Description:
MYSTIC LAMB featured review

Publication:
Providence Journal
Date:
January 2010
Description:
“STEALING THE MYSTIC LAMB is listed as a Best Book of 2010.

Show:
NPR “Think”
Publication Date:
13 October 2010
Description:

Noah Charney discusses “Stealing the Mystic Lamb


Show:
WNYC “The Leonard Lopate Show”
Publication Date:
14 October 2010
Description:

Noah Charney discusses “Stealing the Mystic Lamb


Publication:
The Cleveland Plain Dealer
Date:
14 October 2010
Title:
“Noah Charney pulls off a fascinating 'Stealing the Mystic Lamb'”

Publication:
Christian Science Monitor
Date:
October 2010
Description:
“Promising Books for October: Charney’s Stealing the Mystic Lamb

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Praise for Stealing the Mystic Lamb

The chapter titles in "Stealing the Mystic Lamb" sound like Indiana Jones movies – “Thieves of Revolution and Empire,” “The Magician in the Red Turban,” “Raising the Buried Treasure” – and they’re just as action-packed. Considered a Renaissance first, a benchmark of artistic grandiosity, the treasure involved is a large 12-panel oil painting, the "Ghent Altarpiece" (also called "Adoration of the Mystic Lamb.") Since its 1432 completion, the masterpiece has been stolen seven times, more than any other work in history. 

Author Noah Charney, a man with the enviable job of studying art crime, chronicles the painting's dramatic history, from the peaceful early days in Ghent, Belgium, and on through wartime plunders, hunts led by Napoleon, and heroic rescues. During World War II, Hitler was convinced that the painting contained a coded map to lost Catholic treasures, perhaps the key to supernatural powers. He wanted it for his personal collection, and would rather see it burned than in the Allied hands. The Nazis indeed got hold of the piece, but before they could pass it on or destroy it, a group of Allied detectives stumbled on a clue that saved the stolen artwork, for the time being at least. 

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.

                                 -Christian Science Monitor

 

STEALING THE MYSTIC LAMB
The True Story of the World's Most Coveted Masterpiece
Author: Charney, Noah
Charney (Art History/American Univ. of Rome; The Art Thief, 2007, etc.) 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. He begins near the end of World War II. As the Reich’s military fortunes crumbled, the Allies scrambled to find where the Nazis concealed their tens of thousands of stolen artworks, many slated for Hitler’s proposed “super museum.” Among them was the Altarpiece. Charney pauses to describe the large work, which comprises 20 individual painted panels, hinged together. Art historians admire it not just for its supreme craftsmanship—described clearly by the author—but also for its historical significance as the world’s first major oil painting. Charney also lists a number of “firsts” that the work represents (e.g., the first to use directed spotlighting) and sketches the biography of van Eyck, which makes Shakespeare’s seem richly detailed by comparison. Commissioned to create the altarpiece for the Saint Bavo Cathedral in Ghent, Belgium, van Eyck took some six years to complete it. As religious and political strife waxed and waned, the painting was always in danger. The Calvinists didn’t like it (the Catholics promptly hid it); Napoleon, perhaps history’s greatest art thief, craved it; a cathedral fire threatened it; the Germans came for it in WWI and again in WWII. Even now, one panel remains at large, though some argue that the replacement copy is actually the original.

A brisk tale of true-life heroism, villainy, artistry and passion.

                                    -Kirkus Reviews (15 July 2010)

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