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: 978-0-374-21903-1

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: March 23, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2021

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Tragedy as well as triumph in this meticulous, fascinating tale of three generations of Churchills.

CHURCHILL & SON

Churchill as family man.

In addition to being the subject of countless biographies, Churchill published hundreds of articles and more than 40 books of his own. In this detailed, engaging narrative, Ireland demonstrates that there is more to be learned about one of the most written-about political figures in history. Exploring the statesman’s relationship with his son, Randolph, the author begins with Churchill’s own famously unhappy childhood, chronicling his parents’ “almost comically detached method of care.” Churchill overcompensated for his father’s neglect by spoiling his son, a poorly behaved boy who became a profligate student and undisciplined adult. For all his gifts and achievements, Randolph led a chaotic life. In one two-week period in 1939, anxious for an heir lest he be killed in the war, he proposed to eight different women, all of whom turned him down. The ninth, Pamela Digby, accepted, and a year later, she became mother to his son, also named Winston. Shortly after, she was forced to rent out their home and take a job to pay down his gambling debts. On the positive side, Randolph was a gifted extempore speaker, effective journalist, and influential counselor to his father—and, later, his biographer. While recounting their relationship, Ireland draws unforgettable sketches of life in the Churchill circle, much like Erik Larson did in The Splendid and the Vile. For example, the family home at Chartwell required nearly 20 servants, as celebrities, politicians, and other “extraordinary people” came and went on a daily basis. Throughout, Ireland is generous with the bijou details: Churchill hated whistling and banned it. When dining alone, he would sometimes have a place set for his cat. His valet would select his clothes, “even pulling on his socks.” After retiring to Pratt’s club after Parliament ended its evening session, he would sometimes “take over the grill and cook the food himself.”

Tragedy as well as triumph in this meticulous, fascinating tale of three generations of Churchills.

Pub Date: March 30, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5247-4445-8

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2021

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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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