An engrossing, tumultuous history of a Renaissance painting.

PLUNDER

NAPOLEON'S THEFT OF VERONESE'S FEAST

How stolen art enriched the Louvre.

For Napoleon Bonaparte, artworks represented trophies of military success, might, and power. Prominent among the thousands of pieces his army looted from Italy, Prussia, Austria, and Germany, and displayed with bravado in the Louvre, was Paolo Veronese’s Wedding Feast at Cana, “a vast, sublime canvas that in 1797 the French tore from a wall of the monastery of San Giorgio Maggiore in Venice.” That Renaissance painting is central to Saltzman’s well-researched, discerning history of art as well as the art of war. As Bonaparte rampaged through Europe, he stipulated that “artistic indemnities go into the terms of peace,” forcing those he conquered to give up paintings and sculpture “as part of the reparations of war.” Even the pope capitulated to Napoleon’s demand for 100 artworks from the sumptuous Vatican holdings. Among the extraordinary pieces that Bonaparte plundered, the Veronese was outstanding: “a banqueting scene with life-sized figures and an illusion of reality so convincing that the feast appeared to be taking place in the open air.” Saltzman recounts the laborious process of removing the painting, then more than 235 years old, wrapping the stiff canvas around cylinders, transporting it for weeks on shipboard, and, finally, restoring it. “To put the canvas up on the wall,” writes the author, restorers “would have to build a new stretcher, patch some 360 holes, and retouch these repairs and any other places that had been abraded or left bare.” The project took three years. After Napoleon’s military defeats and downfall, nations that had been looted negotiated for the return of their art. The Veronese, though, was not among the repatriated works. Though it was removed from the Louvre several times for safekeeping during wars, it hangs still, testimony to Napoleon’s compelling desire to be seen “as an Enlightenment leader, an intellectual, and a friend of the philosophes.”

An engrossing, tumultuous history of a Renaissance painting.

Pub Date: May 11, 2021

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: March 23, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: tomorrow

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A virtuoso performance and an ode to an undervalued medium created by two talented artists.

A WEALTH OF PIGEONS

A CARTOON COLLECTION

The veteran actor, comedian, and banjo player teams up with the acclaimed illustrator to create a unique book of cartoons that communicates their personalities.

Martin, also a prolific author, has always been intrigued by the cartoons strewn throughout the pages of the New Yorker. So when he was presented with the opportunity to work with Bliss, who has been a staff cartoonist at the magazine since 1997, he seized the moment. “The idea of a one-panel image with or without a caption mystified me,” he writes. “I felt like, yeah, sometimes I’m funny, but there are these other weird freaks who are actually funny.” Once the duo agreed to work together, they established their creative process, which consisted of working forward and backward: “Forwards was me conceiving of several cartoon images and captions, and Harry would select his favorites; backwards was Harry sending me sketched or fully drawn cartoons for dialogue or banners.” Sometimes, he writes, “the perfect joke occurs two seconds before deadline.” There are several cartoons depicting this method, including a humorous multipanel piece highlighting their first meeting called “They Meet,” in which Martin thinks to himself, “He’ll never be able to translate my delicate and finely honed droll notions.” In the next panel, Bliss thinks, “I’m sure he won’t understand that the comic art form is way more subtle than his blunt-force humor.” The team collaborated for a year and created 150 cartoons featuring an array of topics, “from dogs and cats to outer space and art museums.” A witty creation of a bovine family sitting down to a gourmet meal and one of Dumbo getting his comeuppance highlight the duo’s comedic talent. What also makes this project successful is the team’s keen understanding of human behavior as viewed through their unconventional comedic minds.

A virtuoso performance and an ode to an undervalued medium created by two talented artists.

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-26289-9

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Celadon Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2020

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A wondrous mix of races, ages, genders, and social classes, and on virtually every page is a surprise.

HUMANS OF NEW YORK

STORIES

Photographer and author Stanton returns with a companion volume to Humans of New York (2013), this one with similarly affecting photographs of New Yorkers but also with some tales from his subjects’ mouths.

Readers of the first volume—and followers of the related site on Facebook and elsewhere—will feel immediately at home. The author has continued to photograph the human zoo: folks out in the streets and in the parks, in moods ranging from parade-happy to deep despair. He includes one running feature—“Today in Microfashion,” which shows images of little children dressed up in various arresting ways. He also provides some juxtapositions, images and/or stories that are related somehow. These range from surprising to forced to barely tolerable. One shows a man with a cat on his head and a woman with a large flowered headpiece, another a construction worker proud of his body and, on the facing page, a man in a wheelchair. The emotions course along the entire continuum of human passion: love, broken love, elation, depression, playfulness, argumentativeness, madness, arrogance, humility, pride, frustration, and confusion. We see varieties of the human costume, as well, from formalwear to homeless-wear. A few celebrities appear, President Barack Obama among them. The “stories” range from single-sentence comments and quips and complaints to more lengthy tales (none longer than a couple of pages). People talk about abusive parents, exes, struggles to succeed, addiction and recovery, dramatic failures, and lifelong happiness. Some deliver minirants (a neuroscientist is especially curmudgeonly), and the children often provide the most (often unintended) humor. One little boy with a fishing pole talks about a monster fish. Toward the end, the images seem to lead us toward hope. But then…a final photograph turns the light out once again.

A wondrous mix of races, ages, genders, and social classes, and on virtually every page is a surprise.

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-250-05890-4

Page Count: 432

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2015

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