Showing posts with label book reviews. Show all posts
Showing posts with label book reviews. 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.

November 11, 2011

Noah Charney for ArtInfo Interviews Sandy Nairne, National Portrait Gallery Director and Author of "Art Theft and the Case of the Stolen Turners"

Noah Charney, ARCA founder and president, published on ArtInfo an interview with Sandy Nairne, the director of London's National Portrait Gallery and author of "Art Theft and the Case of the Stolen Turners (Reaktion, 2011)."

Charney and Nairne discuss symbolism of the Turners, the morality of ransom versus payment for information, and similar art thefts.

You may also read more about Sandy Nairne on previous ARCA blog posts here and here.

September 23, 2011

The Journal of Art Crime, Spring 2011: Douglas L. Yearwood Reviews books on Henry Walters, Bernard Berenson and Giuseppe Panza

Doug Yearwood, Director of the North Carolina Criminal Justice Analysis Center, has reviewed two books on collecting for the fifth issue of The Journal of Art Crime.

Henry Walters and Bernard Berenson: Collector and Connoisseur
by Stanley Mazaroff
John Hopkins University Press, 2010
Stanley Mazaroff, a retired barrister who returned to Johns Hopkins to pursue the study of art history, documents the tumultuous, dynamic and topsy-turvy love-hate relationship between the railroad tycoon and art collector, Henry Walters, and Bernard Berenson, a world renowned Italian Renaissance art expert and dealer, between 1902 and 1927.  Drawing on extensive museum records and related archival documents, including the personal correspondence, papers and letters of the two men, the author cogently depicts the highs and lows of Walters collecting career, reveals the inherent difficulties of identifying works attributed, and misattributed, to the Italian masters all within the context of America's gilded age and the lust for anything remotely related to the Renaissance among the nation's most wealthy industrialists and their families.

Giuseppe Panza: Memories of a Collector
by Giuseppe Panza
Abbeville Press, 2008

Memories of a collector is Giuseppe Panza's autobiographical explication of his love, devotion and nearly obsessive desire to put together the best collection of modern or contemporary American art.  Unlike Walters who often left purchases uncrated for months at a time, Panza was a true connoisseur, scholar and an extremely astute buyer who had an uncanny innate ability to know which artists and their works would become famous or desirable well before others in the market.

You may read the complete reviews in the Spring 2011 issue of The Journal of Art Crime by subscribing through the ARCA website or by purchasing individual copies through

February 27, 2011

The Journal of Art Crime: Judge Arthur Tompkins Reviews "The Taste of Angels" and "Art Plunder: The Fate of Works of Art in War and Unrest"

In the fourth issue of The Journal of Art Crime, Judge Arthur Tompkins reviews "The Taste of Angels" (First American Edition; Little Brown and Company, Boston, 1948) by Francis Henry Taylor and "Art Plunder: The Fate of Works of Art in War and Unrest" (John Day, New York, 1961) by Wilhelm Treue and translated by Basil Creighton.

Although both of these books are out of print, they can be found from second-hand internet-based booksellers, and are valuable sources for any student of art crime, writes Judge Tompkins.

In "The Taste of Angels", a former director of New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art surveys the history of art collecting across a wide variety of settings, including the Pharaohs in Egypt, through the Hellenic and Roman Civilizations,the Italy of the Renaissance,the Medicis and the Papacy, and on to the fall of Napoleon.

Wilhelm Treue's small (250 pages) work is an illuminating precursor to the modern study of art crime. According to Judge Tompkins, "it is probably the earliest work of serious scholarship that sets out to encompass, in a coherent form, the long history of art crimes committed during times of war."

Judge Arthur Tompkins has been a District Court Judge in New Zealand for 11 years, having been appointed in 1997. He gained his Bachelor's degree in Law from Canterbury University, in Christchurch, New Zealand, in 1983, and subsequently graduated Masters in Law, with First Class Honors, from Cambridge University, England, in 1984. He has taught the Law of Evidence, and presented at numerous conferences and workshops on a variety of topics, including art crime, expert evidence, the intersect between law and science in courtroom, and forensic DNA, in New Zealand, China, England, Ireland, France, and Italy. He is an Honorary Member of Interpol's DNA Monitoring Expert Group, and an elected Fellow of the Cambridge Commonwealth Trust. He teaches "Art in War" at ARCA's Postgraduate Program in International Art Crime and Cultural Heritage Protection in Amelia each summer.

To seek out this piece, and many others, consider a subscription to the Journal of Art Crime—the first peer-reviewed academic journal covering art and heritage crime. ARCA publishes two volumes annually in the Spring and Fall. Individual, Institutional, electronic and printed versions are all available, with subscriptions as low as 30 Euros. All proceeds go to ARCA's nonprofit research and education initiatives. Please see the publications page for more information.