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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 holds advanced degrees in art history from The Courtauld Institute and Cambridge University. He is the founding director of ARCA, the Association for Research into Crimes against Art, a non-profit think tank and consultancy group on issues in art crime. His work in the field of art crime has been praised in such forums as the New York Times Magazine, Time, Vanity Fair, BBC Radio, and National Public Radio, among others.
Charney is the author of numerous articles and books, including an internationally bestselling novel, The Art Thief, currently translated into sixteen languages, and Stealing the Mystic Lamb: The True History of the World's Most Frequently Stolen Masterpiece. His latest book is The Thefts of the Mona Lisa: On Stealing the World's Most Famous Painting, all profits from which support charity. He lives in Italy, and is currently Adjunct Professor of Art History at the American University of Rome.
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