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Stealing the Mystic Lamb: The True Story of the World's Most Coveted…

by Noah Charney

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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18022107,902 (3.26)17
Presents a history of the world's most pilfered masterpiece--Jan van Eyck's "Ghent Alterpiece," treasured for its central panel, "The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb"--which has been looted in three wars, burned, forged, smuggled, hunted by the Nazis, and stolen thirteen times.
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    Hermann Goring and the Nazi Art Collection: The Looting of Europe's Art Treasures and Their Dispersal After World War II by Kenneth D. Alford (y2pk)
    y2pk: The Mystic Lamb is one of the artworks mentioned in the Goring book. Charney's chapters on World War II provide additional information about how the Nazi looting was accomplished.

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» See also 17 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 23 (next | show all)
Fascinating story of a 15th Century altar piece, looted several times. I was left with a sense that the most recent heist was an unfinished story. The detail and emphasis on the systemic Nazi looting somewhat overpowered the history of Van Eyck's masterpiece. I've not read Charney before, so I don't know whether such side-tracking in a story is typical of this author's work. ( )
  SandyAMcPherson | Jun 24, 2017 |
Fascinating look at the troubled history of one of the most famous works of art, The Ghent Altarpiece. This book delves into the artist of the piece as well as the time, the people, and the other history surrounding it. The Ghent Altarpiece is the most stolen piece of art of all time. It has been stolen, illegally sold, hunted by Nazis, (think Monuments Men) dismembered and so much more. We read this book for our book club and there was so much to discuss. Who really painted it, the symbols found in the panels, where the missing panel is, and so forth. The only thing I did not like about the book were the pictures. They just did not do justice to the art piece. However there are several books out there that have great photos of it. If you are interested in art history at all, read this book! ( )
  bnbookgirl | Mar 15, 2015 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I have read a number of books similar to this, but I found Stealing the Mystic Lamb to be dry and slow. It is not a shining example of this type of book, although it is clearly very well researched. ( )
  paghababian | Mar 16, 2011 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
It's great to see Van Eyck's magnificent painting getting some popular coverage in this fascinating book. As with most books in this genre, it's somewhat sensationalistic and exaggerates somewhat in order to make all of this into a compelling narrative. Nonetheless, it's a fun and quick read, and certainly makes the history of this painting interesting. I also quite like the idea of a popular history book that traces the history of a single object through time. ( )
  vanderschloot | Jan 23, 2011 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
What comes through in each section of Stealing the Mystic Lamb, much like his previous novel The Art Thief and his work with ARCA, is author Noah Charney’s absolute passion for his subject matter. His enthusiasm comes through his words, and it adds to the ease he is able to strike when speaking about art and history. Due to this enthusiasm and ease I find the strongest area of the novel to be the first section. As a former art history student I quickly learned how bland a dry formal analysis, discussions of iconography and historical context can be. To strike a compelling narrative for those in the field is difficult enough, but to make it both compelling and accessible to a nonprofessional is an achievement I think Charney reaches, at least in the first few chapters. The history of the painting’s various thefts moves along, weaving in the socio-cultural and political histories that accompany each situation, creating an interesting web of time, circumstance, and of course, the mystery surrounding each crime.

And then he reaches the Nazis.

And that is where the book falters. Two-thirds of the way (halfway?) through this turns from the story of art, crime and history to a book about Nazi plundering. The thieving the Nazis accomplished, especially in relation to the riches of art stolen for both the personal collections of high officials and Hitler’s secret museum is a huge and intriguing topic -- in fact there are whole books written on just that subject. But here, it takes over and brings down the intriguing story that came before it. Although he has the facts, Charney’s writing becomes long-winded and extremely repetitive at this point, especially as he constantly but almost frivolously brings up The Ghent Alterpiece as if to say “don’t worry I didn’t forget about my central thesis.” But he had. The excitement the author has about this period of time is shown by length, but pure word count does not rescue the weak connections to the van Eyck the author attempts to make as he continues to write on the subject.

The last chapter is interesting, but its highly speculative and after the huge extrapolation about the Nazis it seems like an afterthought just to wrap the book up. Although Charney’s projections about motive and possibilities helped move the narrative in earlier chapters, in the end they felt weak and lacked the same pizazz that was so interesting earlier on in the book.
  entropica | Jan 12, 2011 |
Showing 1-5 of 23 (next | show all)

» Add other authors (2 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Noah Charneyprimary authorall editionscalculated
Estrella, JuanjoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To Urska, the love of my life, and to Hubert van Eyck, who taught me the joys of gnawing on one's own foot
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They found him in a whitewashed cottage nestled in a dark German forest.
As the oak door to the chapel swings open, one is first struck by the scents: the cool, ancient stone of the walls of Saint Bavo Cathedral, the smell of frankincense, and then the surprising notes of old wood, linseed oil, and varnish.
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An edition of this book was published by PublicAffairs.

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An edition of this book was published by Tantor Media.

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