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Saving Mona Lisa: The Battle to Protect the…

Saving Mona Lisa: The Battle to Protect the Louvre and its Treasures…

by Gerri Chanel

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This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
While I appreciate the amount of research that went into writing this book and the notes section at the end, I did not find the narrative itself particularly compelling, and the lack of a good, detailed map seems an omission to me. On the other hand, I was surprised at the number of photos and that they were spread throughout the book at appropriate places, rather than a one-size-fits-all photo section. Thank you for that. And thanks to Early Reviewers for this book. ( )
  y2pk | Jan 13, 2019 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This was a fascinating and absorbing account of the battle by curators at the Louvre, as well as many others who supported them, to save some of the world's most important art: paintings, drawings, sculptures, tapestries, altar pieces, antiquities, and objets d'art. Thousands of items had to be evacuated from the Louvre and other museums in France during World War II as Germany's invasion began. The items were moved repeatedly through the war as new threats arose, whether from fear of being too close to combat areas, or because of threats of dangerous storage conditions, such as harmful humidity levels, inadequate space or fire prevention resources, and more. The author does an excellent job of telling the stories of many of the individuals involved in the massive effort, including Jacques Jaujard, Van der Kemp, Chamson, Mazauric, Bazin,Huyghe, Wolff Metternich, and Rose Valland, a person many may remember from the book Monuments Men. One truly understands the dangers and problems faced by these individuals in their fight to preserve so much of our history. Far beyond the problems they may have been trained to handle (protecting art from humidity, vandalism, and other issues), they had to deal with inadequate heating, scarce food, and the other terrible conditions of war, as well as battling against the efforts of German leaders who were determined to steal away many of the treasures, as well as renegade soldiers. Many also became involved with the French Resistance, increasing the danger to themselves and the artwork they were charged with protecting. The author writes well and I found that I flew through each chapter. The understanding gained through the author's clear writing style was aided further by the addition of many photographs. I would highly recommend this book to anyone, even those who do not have a strong interest or background in art history. It is a story that is important for everyone to know. ( )
  Dgryan1 | Jan 12, 2019 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I received a free copy of this book through the LTER in exchange for my honest opinion. I was very much looking forward to reading this book (having enjoyed the "Monuments Men" movie). However, I found this book extremely boring to read. There are only so many times you are willing to read how the dedicated Louvre Staff "opens the traveling case of the Mona Lisa" to check that she is still okay. This book's only redeeming feature is the way it shows the incredible dedication and sacrifices that the Louvre staff showed before, during and after WW II to safeguard these priceless treasures. I think this book is more aimed at readers with a strong interest in Art History. ( )
1 vote yukon92 | Jan 2, 2019 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Well researched account of the saving of French art from Nazi looters during World War II. The curators had to pack and remove the artwork from Paris, and arrange to have them stored in buildings away from the German army and bombings. Good section on what happened to the people after the war, and how they saved to artworks from being looted or destroyed by the German occupiers of France. Peculiar problems of storing artwork included humidity levels, moisture, theft or vandalism from storing the art in remote locations, and dealing with Germans, French resistance fighters, allied troops and local residents were all mostly overcome. A good story. Recommended for French history collections, WWII collections, and art history. ( )
  hadden | Dec 29, 2018 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This is a very complicated topic. In a quest to unravel the earliest history of the Louvre and the Mona Lisa, the author starts with the early Middle Ages, and after some dozens of pages I was wondering why we needed to know this when Leonardo da Vinci arrived on the scene with the Mona Lisa in his luggage! I had vaguely assumed that it was looted by Napoleon, but here it was given to France by Leonardo himself! Who knew. We then forge on through various historical wars, the French Revolution, and up to the First World War, during each of which the Louvre and its artworks were in peril (but the Mona Lisa did not repose in the Louvre during all this time). Finally arriving in the years of World War II, the artworks of the Louvre and other French museums were whisked away to the countryside at the outset of the war, languished there through most of the Phony War, were returned to Paris, then evacuated again under much less favourable conditions, to chateaux and other sites which frequently proved to be unsuitable, necessitating repeated removals in search of sites not suffering from excess humidity, floods, etc. One does not form a very positive impression of French foresight or their ability to plan. In the midst of coping with the vicissitudes of war and weather, the curators of the Louvre also had to deal with the eagerness of the Vichy government to appease the German occupiers and high Nazis' appetite for loot with gifts (unequal "exchanges") of France's artistic patrimony. At this they were extremely successful. Their ability to negotiate was unsurpassed (in one case, the curator kept talking for several hours while the Germans had him against a wall at gunpoint, escaping with his life and with the collection intact). It's quite the story, but the author keeps it as clear as humanly possible. Nevertheless, following the plot with events taking place simultaneously in various art caches all over France is sometimes like reading an epic of George R.R. Martin.

One of the very best things about the book, which contributes greatly to its readability, is the arrangement of photographs within the book. Time and again, as soon as a work of art is mentioned in terms that pique the reader's curiosity (what does the Belle Allemande look like?), it's illustrated right there in the text. So are most of the chateaux which hosted paintings and sculpture (why couldn't they get large artworks up the stairway at Chambord? the photo makes it clear at a glance) and details of the transportation and unloading arrangements.

There is also a comprehensive bibliography and index, much to my satisfaction. ( )
  muumi | Dec 27, 2018 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0615990398, Paperback)

For table of contents, excerpts and selected images, see www.SavingMonaLisa.net

In August 1939, curators at the Louvre nestled the world's most famous painting into a special red-velvet-lined case and spirited her away to the Loire Valley. Thus began the biggest evacuation of art and antiquities in history. As the Germans neared Paris in 1940, the French raced to move the masterpieces still further south, then again and again during the war, crisscrossing the southwest of France. At times Mona Lisa slept at the bedside of curators who were painfully aware of their heavy responsibility.

Throughout the German occupation, the Louvre's staff fought to keep the priceless treasures out of the hands of Hitler and his henchmen and to keep the Louvre palace safe, many of them risking their jobs and their lives to protect the country's artistic heritage. Saving Mona Lisa is the sweeping, suspenseful narrative of their battle.

Superbly researched and accompanied by riveting photographs of the period, Saving Mona Lisa is a compelling true story of art and beauty, intrigue and ingenuity, and remarkable moral courage in the face of one of the most fearful enemies in history.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:10:19 -0400)

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