A generally engrossing study of Paolo Veronese's allegorical masterwork, "Wisdom and Strength," that traces the painting's peregrinations from its creation in 16th-century Venice to its current home in N.Y.C.'s Frick Museum. In telling his story, Watson (The Caravaggio Conspiracy, 1984; Twins, 1982) provides sketches of the work's various owners: the mad Hapsburg Empeor Rudolf II; headstrong Queen Christina of Sweden; opportunistic Philippe EgalitÇ of France; Thomas Hope, a social-climbing British banker; and Henry Clay Frick, American robber-baron. The author also provides information on such matters as Renaissance painting techniques, restorations, and the three periods during which major art works were pawns in the power plays of the world's military, political, and economic leaders. The painting's history is thus packed with fascinating personalities and events; however, it would have profited from a bit of judicious pruning. Scarcely a person, place, or thing is mentioned without Watson's expatiating on its history, its peculiarities, its eventual fate. In some cases, though, this approach provides an excuse for introducing some curious facts and amusing anecdotes: a history of Paris' Palais Royal, a brief analysis of the development of the English country house and the "long weekend," and a section detailing the supposed "curse" attached to the Hope Diamond. Despite its shortcomings, Watson's fresh approach to his material makes for a worthwhile and frequently exciting story. It might also boost attendance figures at the Frick Museum.