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Reading Maketh a Full Man...

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The Discarded Image: An Introduction to Medieval and Renaissance Literature (Canto)
C.S. Lewis
Boys and Girls Learn Differently!: A Guide for Teachers and Parents
Michael Gurian, Terry Trueman, Patricia Henley
Ambition and Survival: Becoming a Poet
Christian Wiman
Deep River: The Life and Music of Robert Shaw
Keith C. Burris
Daring, Trusting Spirit
John De Gruchy
The Vatican Diaries: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Power, Personalities, and Politics at the Heart of the Catholic Church
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The Whisperers: Private Life in Stalin's Russia
Orlando Figes

Rescuing Da Vinci: Hitler and the Nazis Stole Europe's Great Art - America and Her Allies Recovered It

Rescuing Da Vinci: Hitler and the Nazis Stole Europe's Great Art - America and Her Allies Recovered It - Robert M. Edsel, Lynn H. Nicholas, Edmund P. Pillsbury Having visited many museums in Europe, I always had questions in the back of my mind -- What did they do with the artwork during WWII? How did the Mona Lisa avoid being captured by the Germans? How did large statues that could not be moved avoid being damaged? Well, this book answers these questions. And WOW, does it answer them, with well written text and also with stunning pictures. I HIGHLY recommend it!!!What was most fascinating about this book was to learn how many objects of art that I have seen or studied or been familiar with were removed to places of safe keeping, and it seems many more were stolen by the Nazis and placed in repositories in Germany. Photographs speaking dramatically of these events include the Winged Victory of Samothrace under a gallows type scaffold as it is hoisted and removed from the Louvre to avoid destruction or theft by the Nazis. (made my hair stand up on end to see it hoisted thus!) The photograph of the empty Louvre is chilling, as is the picture of the empty frames on the wall in the Hermitage "Rembrandt Room". Seeing a picture of a painting from the Louvre by Gericault at 16 x 23 feet in size being tangled in the trolley line wires in Versailles shows how difficult it was to move these large art treasures to places of safe keeping! In "Setting the Stage" (chapter 1), the author shows how Hitler planned the systematic theft of art from around Europe to be included in an art museum built in his hometown of Linz. Thus began the next 7 years of such "acquisition" or theft of various paintings / sculptures / tapestries / furniture by the Nazis.Chapter 2, "Preparation" shows how those who were geographically close to Germany saw the early danger signals and museum directors and curators began removing art collections into storage or safe areas.In Spain during the fall of 1936, the collections of the Prado Museum in Madrid were taken down and stored on the ground floor as there was no basement storage. Art treasures by El Greco, Rogier van der Weyden, and Diego Velasquez (among others) were moved from El Escorial, the monastery near Madrid and the palace of King Philip II to Valencia. Later they were moved to a castle near Barcelona and finally to Geneva for a 1939 exhibition at the Museum of Art and History. In England, preparations began in 1938 to establish repositories in Wales which seemed a safe distance from German bombing. When France fell in June 1940, these repositories were within bombing distance, so an underground solution was sought, the Manod Quarry in Wales. The Victoria and Albert Museum, the British Museum, and the Tate Gallery all sent collections there. This was fortuitous, as all these museums and the National Gallery were hit repeatedly and severely damaged by Germans bombs.In Italy, many immovable objects such as the Leonardo da Vinci fresco "The Last Supper" in Milan were braced with structural supports and faced with protective boards further weighted in place by sandbags. Massive sculptures were disassembled where possible and hidden. Paintings were taken out of frames and rolled up like maps. Entire structures, such as the 4th century Arch of Constantine in Rome, were encased in structural supports of wood, steel, sandbags, and brick. France and Holland were Germany's next door neighbors. As early as 1937 museum officials had made priority lists of items and identified churches and chateaux that could serve as storage facilities in case of evacuation. After the surprise attack on Poland on Sept 1, 1939, officials were made aware of the theft of historic works from Poland. The theft of the massive altarpiece by Veit Stoss in the church of Our Lady in Cracow was especially prominent.In France, extraordinary lengths were taken to hide masterpieces such as the "Mona Lisa", which lived for several years on the move, being moved at least 6 times in the course of the war.Germany's attack on Russia in 1941 pushed authorities there into a time of scramble as they sought to preserve palaces and treasures from the oncoming Germany army. The officials at the Hermitage Museum had to protect almost 2 MILLION art objects. In less than a month after the German attack, more than half a million art objects had been loaded onto railcars to Siberia. Chapter 3, "War Arrives" shows in dramatic photographs and text the devastation that Poland, Rotterdam, Paris, London, Athens, and Leningrad experienced. In Poland, a set of photographs accompany the explanation that the Nazi policy was to erase Poland's history or art, writers, and composers. The monument of Poland's greatest poet, Adam Mickiewiez, is shown being pushed over by German laborers. A bronze monument to Poland's greatest musician, Chopin, is shown in pieces on a railcar headed to the smelter. The now famous pictures of destruction in London include Winston Churchill surveying the dramatic damage to the House of Commons (the roof is gone and the inside is all rubble) and also of Queen Elizabeth and King George IV as they inspect damage to Buckingham Palace while scrambling over rubble.Chapter 4 "Theft by Any Other Name" documents the extent to which the Nazis had planned their acquisition of art objects. Pages from catalogs of artworks to be "obtained" are shown, some now of paintings lost or perhaps destroyed. In Italy, the Germans "helped" protect artwork being transferred from Naples to the Abbey of Monte Cassino. Only later was it discovered that large numbers of art objects were never delivered to the Abbey, but were found later in a repository in Austria. Chapter 5 "Heroes and Heroines" is a wonderful chapter, finally putting names and faces to the brave men and women, mostly led by Americans and a key group of British offices, who at great personal sacrifice made every effort to protect the cultural treasures of others. Without their actions, a huge majority of European artwork would have been lost, destroyed, or otherwise erased from our culture. Officially, the "Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives" program (MFAA) was put in place originally to identify major art objects and culturally important buildings and statues so that they could be protected. They also provided maps to the Allied bombers, so that these treasures could be avoided and NOT be bombed. After the war ended, these men and women continued their work in the location of over 1,000 German repositories containing thousands upon thousands of stolen art objects. The discovery of various treasure troves is described in chapter 5, "Treasure Troves". The castle at Neuchwanstein, "Mad Ludwig" of Bavaria's Cinderella castle was host to stolen art from France and was used as a depot to transfer art to other hiding places. Alt Aussee in Austria was a salt mine where thousands of art objects were hidden by the Nazis. Art objects saved? Giotto's "Ognissanti Madonna", Botticelli's "La Primavera", "Equestrian Portrait of Philip IV of Spain", Manet's "In the Conservatory", Rembrandt's "Self Portrait c 1650", the "Bruges Madonna" by MIchaelangelo, the "Ghent Altarpiece" by Jan van Eyck, Vermeer's "The Astronomer"... and the list goes on!Chapter 7 describes the "Collecting Points" where art that was found could be returned and then the process of returning it to the owners could be carried out. Then in Chapter 8, "Homeward Bound" describes the involved process of returning these treasures to their rightful owners and putting back art objects that had been hidden. "The Winged Lion of St. Mark" was put back on the column in Venice. The "Mona Lisa" was put back in the Louvre. Rodin's "The Burghers of Calais" was moved from Munich back to Paris. The 300 stolen streetcars from Amsterdam were returned from storage by the Germans in Bremen. (??? they stole streetcars?!????) "The Lion of Isted" was retrieved from Berlin and returned to Denmark. And the Veit Stoss "St. Mary Altarpiece" was returned to Cracow.In Chapter 9, "Casualties of War", I learned something. Major General Choltitz, German Commander of Paris, was ordered to destroy Paris when he retreated. He is quoted as saying , "It is always my lot to defend the rear of the German Army. And each time it happens I am ordered to destroy each city as I leave it." Fortunately, Hitler's orders were ignored, thus saving the city from devastation.In the "Epilogue", ongoing recovery of lost art objects continues. The websites www.rescuingdavinci.com and www.rapeofeuropa.com have information about the Monuments Men and their work, and how artwork is continuing to show up here and there as access to the internet makes it easier to return stolen art to owners. I HIGHLY recommend this book. It made me even more proud of the American's who fought in WWII. It has been the norm in battles that art objects land in the hands of the victor. In no other situation have these art objects been protected, fought for, rescued, and then returned to their owners. This is a heritage to be thankful for, and proud of. I can visit these museums in Europe now, knowing the wonderful work carried out by Americans to preserve the cultural history of Europe.