Associate Editor Marc Balcells reviewed Ilaria Dagnini Brey's The Venus Fixers and Robert Edsel's Saving Italy in the Fall 2013 issue of The Journal of Art Crime.
Following in the steps of many other books depicting the loss of cultural heritage during World War II (whose examples include Lynn Nicholas' The Rape of Europa or Harclerode and Pittaway's The Lost Masters, among others), Ilaria Dagnini Brey's book traces the fate of Italian works of art that suffered during the armed conflict. An Italian journalist herself, Mrs. Dagnini Brey traces, with a complete array of documentation, the history and the impact of World War II in Italy, especially in its cities, filled with monuments, museums, historical buildings and archives. The book covers only particular cities: of course writing a book with the vast amount of information on cultural heritage in every corner of Italy would be a work fit for an encyclopedia, and not just a single volume.
Of Robert M. Edsel's Saving Italy: The Race to Rescue a Nation's Treasures from the Nazis (W.W. Norton & Company, May 2013), Balcells wrote:One of the assets of the book is its establishment of a very solid base setting the scene: path of Italy's entrance to the war is clearly delineated. But instead of giving only a historical account of the events, the author establishes, from the very beginning, the links to cultural heritage and the policies taken to prevent the possible damage. In order to do so, the main characters are carefully introduced, and the main cities that configure the book's landscape are clearly laid from the very beginning (Padua, Rome, Florence...). Out of these characters, for the reader who has previous knowledge of the subject, the Allied Monuments Men will echo from others (mostly Edsel's two previous books, Rescuing Da Vinci and The Monuments Men). However, without downplaying their role, the book also abounds with Italian characters who have been mostly unacknowledged, and are fully explored in it.
Followers of Robert Edsel's previous books can rejoice, as a new one has appeared on the market: after Rescuing Da Vinci and The Monuments Men, Saving Italy follows his previous books related to World War II and the destruction of cultural heritage, and the task that the Monuments Men conducted in order to save, in this case, Italy's cultural heritage.
This book relates much to its predecessor, The Monuments Men (Rescuing Da Vinci follows a mostly illustrated, coffee table book format), as it traces the work of the Allied officers from England and the United States into Italy, as the German forces retreated. The book follows a chronological order in four parts: the inception, struggle, victory and aftermath of the Monuments Men.
Marc Balcells is the Associate Editor of The Journal of Art Crime. A Spanish criminologist, he holds degrees in Law, Criminology and Human Services, and masters both in Criminal Law, and the ARCA Postgraduate Program in Art Crime and Cultural Heritage Protection. A Fulbright scholar, he is currently completing his PhD in Criminal Justice at The Graduate Center, CUNY. His research revolves around criminological aspects of archaeological looting, though he has also written about other forms of art crime. He has taught both Criminal Law and Criminology courses as an associate at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona and the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (Spain) and is a Graduate Teaching Fellow in the Political Science department at John Jay College. He is also a criminal defense attorney whose practice is located in Barcelona.
You may finish reading this book review in the Fall 2013 issue of The Journal of Art Crime. Design for this issue and all issues of The Journal of Art Crime is the work of Urška Charney. Here's a link to ARCA's website on The Journal of Art Crime (includes Table of Contents for previous issues).