Jan van Eyck’s Ghent Altarpiece is on any art historian’s list of the ten most important paintings ever made. Often referred to by the subject of its central panel, The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb, it represents the fulcrum between the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. It is also the most frequently stolen artwork of all time.
Since its completion in 1432, this twelve-panel oil painting has been looted in three different wars, burned, dismembered, forged, smuggled, illegally sold, censored, hidden, attacked by iconoclasts, hunted by the Nazis and Napoleon, used as a diplomatic tool, ransomed, rescued by Austrian double-agents, and stolen a total of thirteen times.
In this fast-paced, real-life thriller, art historian Noah Charney unravels the stories of each of these thefts. In the process, he illuminates the whole fascinating history of art crime, and the psychological, ideological, religious, political, and social motivations that have led many men to covet this one masterpiece above all others.
About the Author
Noah Charney is the author of the international bestselling novel The Art Thief and is the founding director of The Association for Research into Crimes against Art, an international nonprofit think tank. Currently professor of art history at the American University of Rome, he lives in Italy with his wife.
Review From Other
Kirkus, July 15, 2010
“Charney 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…. A brisk tale of true-life heroism, villainy, artistry and passion.”
Christian Science Monitor, August 30, 2010
“[A]ction-packed…. 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.”
Cleveland Plain Dealer, October 14, 2010
“Well-written and thorough, this book reminds us of the influence and fragility of art, our veniality and heroism, and the delights found in both the beautiful and the strange.”
Maclean’s, October 14, 2010
“In Charney’s hand, the story of the various heists often reads like a political thriller.”
Catholic Herald, December 13, 2010
“Charney’s wonderfully learned and entertaining book tells us about all the indignities this famous image has endured through the centuries… but the book also has some much broader point to make about the cultural significance of important paintings… Charney tackles some important subjects (the creation of the modern art-stealing industry, our sensible obsession with almost burglar-proof museums) but he wears his learning lightly and the next extraordinary tale is only ever a few pages away. Best of a very good bunch must be the account of the Monuments Men: the highly qualified people who followed in the wake of the liberating armies at the end of World War Two… It is good to hear their story and all the other bizarre tales this innovative and elegant book has to tell.”