Showing posts with label Diane Charney. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Diane Charney. Show all posts

March 13, 2012

The Journal of Art Crime, Fall 2011: Diane Joy Charney reviews Terence M. Russell's "The Discovery of Egypt: Vivant Denon's Travels with Napoleon's Army" and Denon's erotic novel "No Tomorrow"

In the Fall 2011 Issue of The Journal of Art Crime, Diane Joy Charney reviews Terence M. Russell's The Discovery of Egypt: Vivant Denon's Travels with Napoleon's Army (Sutton Publishing Limited, 2005) and Viviant Denon's No Tomorrow (Translated from the French Point de Lendemain by Lydia Davis with an introduction by Peter Brooks, New York Review Books, 2009):
Does the name “Denon” ring a bell? Perhaps it would if you are the sort of Louvre visitor who has gazed up at the inscription “Pavillon Denon” on the Louvre’s façade, or who notices, en route to the “Mona Lisa,” to “The Winged Victory of Samothrace,” and to Michelangelo’s Slave sculptures, that you are walking in the museum’s “Denon Wing”. Or maybe you are a connaisseur of erotic literature who knows about the new dual-language edition of “No Tomorrow,” a work attributed to Denon that has recently garnered attention in literary circles. Just who could this chameleon-like Denon fellow be? 
Known as “Napoleon’s Eye,” as well as a lover of the Empress Josephine and eventual director of the Louvre, Denon was a man of many talents. Writer, artist, collector, adventurer, archeologist, tastemaker, and charming courtier, he could metamorphose into whatever role was required of him. 
Readers of Terence Russell’s scholarly, authoritative text will get to know the colorful Denon as an intrepid artist able to sketch rapidly under fire who was selected to accompany the French troops on their Egyptian campaign. In addition to his drawing skills, however, Denon paints with his words keen observations about the land and culture he encounters. Denon’s illustrated record of what he saw in Egypt is here made available to the non-speaker of French, through Russell’s well-chosen quotes and drawings. Russell’s paraphrasing and commentary, although sometimes more dry than Denon’s own words, add a necessary framework to the story. 
It is thanks to Denon that so many Egyptian artifacts made it safely to Paris, where as a result of his efforts, the wonders of Ancient Egypt began to be known and appreciated. Without Denon, today’s Louvre would not be the treasure house that it is. To those interested in art crime, however, there is another facet to Denon’s far-reaching influence and collecting style. 
As an immensely likeable master courtier, Denon was able to put a positive spin on what amounted to Napoleon’s looting of the art of countries where he waged war. Under Bonaparte, the appropriation of art became standard policy. In praising Napoleon for his heroic efforts to “conserve” great art in the face of “the torment of war,” Denon lauds a policy that would later be copied by Hitler, whose wholesale confiscation of art was touted as an effort to “protect” it. 
Now how does the reader put together the Denon who drew for sixteen hours straight through eyelids bleeding from the windblown sand, with the author of the 30-page erotic classic, “No Tomorrow,” which according to one reader, should be next to “titillating” in the dictionary? Although Denon was known to have talent for pornographic art, it may be quite a leap from that to authoring what Good Reads calls “one of the masterpieces of eighteenth-century literature, a book to set beside Laclos’ ‘Les Liasons Dangereuses.’”
Diane Joy Charney teaches French Literature at Yale University, where she is also Tutor-in-Writing and the Mellon Forum Fellow of Timothy Dwight College.

You may read the entire review by purchasing a subscription to The Journal of Art Crime.

March 6, 2012

The Journal of Art Crime, Fall 2011: Diane Joy Charney reviews Nathaniel Herzberg

In the Fall 2011 issue of The Journal of Art Crime, Diane Joy Charney reviews Nathaniel Herzberg's Le Musée Invisible: Les Chefs-d'oeuvre volés (Nouvelle Edition, 2010):
This handsome edition by “Le Monde” journalist, Nathaniel Hertzberg, begins provocatively: 
“It’s the largest and richest museum in the world— works by Picasso, Renoir, Rembrandt, Monet, Matisse, Warhol, the great Italian Primitives, a whole range of Flemish masters with Vermeer at the top of the list. Also works of sculpture, furniture, rare books, musical instruments, precious timepieces. No period or important artist is unrepresented in this unique establishment, Le Musée Invisible—the greatest museum in the world, but no one can see it. Its collections, stolen over the course of centuries, pillaged from historic sites, taken from museums, churches, chateaux and private collectors, and never recovered.” 
In homage to these missing works, Herzberg has created this imaginary museum. As a backdrop to the works he has chosen for the collection, he paints the strangely diverse world of criminals responsible for the thefts, but especially a world where to steal a work of art is easier than to resell it. 
The above Introduction is actually preceded by an explanation of why a new edition was necessary so soon after the first appeared. As Herzberg explains, “...the May 2010 thefts of five masterpieces from the Paris Musée d’Art Moderne, the most important theft of a French museum in the past quarter century had occurred, and the book made no mention of it.” 
To no one’s surprise, there were other major thefts during the interval between the first and second editions: a Breughel stolen from an art fair in Brussels, an anonymous portrait from a Polish church, a Degas pastel from the Musée Cantini in Marseilles, an anonymous sculpture from a Venezuela museum, a lavishly decorated marble plaque from a Teheran mosque, and an antique statue stolen from a private collection in Copenhagen. In 2009 alone, 1751 works of art were reported stolen in France.
Diane Joy Charney teaches French Literature at Yale University, where she is also Tutor-in-Writing and the Mellon Forum Fellow of Timothy Dwight College.

You may read the full review by subscribing to The Journal of Art Crime.

October 4, 2011

The Journal of Art Crime, Spring 2011: Diane Joy Charney on "Another look at the 2010 ARCA Conference on the Study of Art Crime: Something for Everyone"

French literature lecturer Diane Charney ties in Romain Gary's "Le Faux" (The Fake), a 20th century story by the WWII hero and novelist. Professor Charney, who has taught at Yale since 1984, describes this multi-layered intriguing story:
A shady, nouveau-riche Neapolitan collector, Baretta, who earned his fortune selling Italian salami, is in the news for having purchased, for a princely sum, what many believe to be a "fake Van Gogh." Seeking to burnish his image through buying expensive art, Baretta pays a visit to the renowned expert, S, who he hopes will authenticate, or at least not challenge, the authenticity of his Van Gogh. S is also a newcomer to Parisian grand society, who has come a long way from his poor Turkish roots. Despite their equally modest backgrounds, however, Baretta and S have very different approaches to the exchange value of art. Among the themes of this richly suspenseful story are an obsession with authenticity in art and in cultural origins, and the valorization of the aesthetic object.
"'Le Faux' can become a lens through which to review the 2010 ARCA conference," writes Charney. Her analysis includes presenters such as Betina Kuzmarov "Rethinking the Qianlong Bronze Heads: Objective versus Aesthetic Visions of Cultural Property"; Judge Arthur Tompkins on an International Art Crime Tribunal; Chris Marinello's "The Role of the Art Loss Register and its Efforts to Recover Stolen Art through the Legitimate Marketplace and the Underworld"; and Colette Marvin on "Curating Art Crime".

You may read this essay by subscribing to The Journal of Art Crime through ARCA's website or by purchasing an individual issue at

January 20, 2011

Amelia, Umbria: Pasticceria Massimo's Appearance in Daniel Silva's Novel 'The Defector'

by Catherine Schofield Sezgin

While studying in Amelia at ARCA's Postgraduate Program in Art Crime Studies in 2009, I looked forward to July 21, the release date for another book in Daniel Silva's series on Gabriel Allon, art restorer, spy and assassin. Downloading the book from would allow me to listen to The Defector on my iPhone although I was in a medieval town in the middle of Umbria. And although I had been looking forward to this book since Silva had signed my copy of Moscow Rules in 2008, I would not be able to listen to the book until midnight.

That day, a Tuesday, Monica Di Stefano, Italian teacher extraordinaire and gracious Umbrian host, guided a group of students and attending family members through Narni, visiting a church, the duomo, and a stage theatre. We lunched on curried chicken, pesto trofilo, and meatloaf with mashed potatoes at a cucina off a side street. Desserts, baked there, included a flourless chocolate torte, a fruit crumble, and a crème brulee.

We explored Narni underground, an area discovered by some children in 1979 when they climbed into the vegetable garden of an old man who asked them to explore an area from where he could feel fresh air. Inside the opening, they discovered an old church used by the Dominicans from the 12th century and beyond that Inquisition torture chambers. A prisoner in 1759 had left carvings on his cell wall explaining his name, his military rank of corporeal, and signs related to Christianity and masonry. The man was likely a leader of the guards for the Inquisition chambers and had been put in prison for 13 years because he had tried to save another guard from torture. Another prisoner of the Inquisition was accused of having two wives -- something awful in Italy because two wives meant two mother-in-laws -- and when he killed a guard and escaped, he ended up in L'Aquila, outside the protected walls of the papal empire. The hidden chamber also revealed two skeletons, including one of a tall woman with a full set of teeth and clothing tied by ribbons at the sleeves, not sown, putting her in the 19th century.

After this field trip, we returned to Amelia, prepared for the next day's lecture and not until midnight did I insert earphones to listen to The Defector. Minutes later I heard: "Chapter Four, Amelia, Umbria."

Silva's Gabriel Allon describes the town:
"Amelia, the oldest of the Umbria's cities, had seen the last outbreak of Black Death and, in all likelihood, every one before it. Founded by Umbrian tribesmen long before the dawn of the Common Era, it had been conquered by Etruscans, Romans, Goths, and Lombards before finally being placed under the dominion of the popes. Its dun-colored walls were more than ten feet thick, and many of its ancient streets were navigable only on foot... It's main street, Via Rimembranze, was the place where most Amelians passed their ample amounts of free time. In late afternoon, they strolled the pavements and congregated on street corners, trading in gossip and watching the traffic heading down the valley toward Orvieto."
Allon enters Pasticceria Massimo and orders a cappuccino and a selection of pastries.

So the next day, after waking at 9 a.m., breakfasting at 10, ironing at 11 and getting dressed at noon, my family and I followed Gabriel Allon's path into Pasticceria Massimo to try the cappuccino and cream puffs. Massimo, the owner, and a woman wearing eyeglasses behind the counter -- possibly the model for the girl who had served Gabriel Allon in the book -- did not know of Daniel Silva or his books but were pleased to learn of the connection.

The Illy espresso was delicious, the foam smooth, and the service gracious. We later learned of Massimo's great tiramisu cakes and added Pasticceria Massimo to our daily routine. We were able to share our story with Daniel Silva and his wife Jamie Gangel who sent a signed bookplate to "the girl who presided over the gleaming glass counter of Pasticceria Massimo" as Daniel Silva wrote in his book. In exchange, the woman in the eyeglass at Massimo's, of course her name was Daniela, sent a memento of Amelia to Daniel Silva and is waiting for The Defector to be translated into Italian.

My first visit to Massimo's was followed by a two-hour Italian class with Monica Di Stefano and then a lecturer by Diane Charney, a French Literature Professor at Yale University, on the heroic work of Rose Valland who copied the negatives of looted art works processed through the Jeu du Paume in Paris during World War II.

That evening, after a trip to the fromaggerie for fresh yogurt and cardinale cheese in the afternoon, a group of us dined on pizza at Porcelli's Taverne and then two of us walked Diane Charney to her guest apartment on Via della Repubblica until Richard Ellis, founder of Scotland Yard's Art Crime and Antiquities Squad, joined us on the street. When I introduced myself, he said that he had already met my husband and children earlier that day. The four of us chatted long enough for his wife to call and wonder what had happened to him when he went to park the car.

Without the aid of my journal, I would not have remembered that finding Amelia mentioned in Daniel Silva's 2009 novel was sandwiched in between Narni underground's Inquisition torture chambers and meeting Scotland Yard's Richard Ellis. But I have recalled those two days here for those potential candidates considering the program who wonder about the consequences of enrolling in ARCA's Art Crime and Cultural Heritage Protection Studies. It was not a summer of lectures and assigned readings I had anticipated -- the rest of the summer could fill another novel!

Photo: Daniela Grillini, Pasticceria Massimo, possibly the model for Daniel Silva's character who "presided over the gleaming glass counter."

Pasticceria Massimo
Via delle Rimembranze, 8
Amelia (Tr)
Chiuso il lunedi/Closed on Monday