ART PLUNDER by Wilhelm Treue


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Previously published in Germany and England, this well documented but ponderous book by a German scholar is an account of the ""fate of works of art in war, revolution and peace"" from the days of the early Romans to those of Hitler and Goring. Loot has always been the prerogative of the conqueror, whether a general, politician or art-avid millionaire; the wonder is that after long centuries of plundering so many art treasures from the past still survive. Long before Christ the Romans stole statues, gold objects and libraries from Greek and Hebrew temples. In 1453 Constantinople was devastated by Venetian soldiers, who took much of their loot to Venice, including the bronze horses of St. Mark's; centuries later Napoleon stole them in turn and sent them to Paris; they are now back in Venice. Priceless art treasures were destroyed and stolen in the long and bloody sack of Rome in 1527. The Thirty Years War brought further plundering, and the great General Marlborough demanded, and got magnificent paintings from conquered countries. The French Revolution, the Napoleonic Wars and the Russian Revolution brought with them looting of private collections; in World War II Hitler and his minions confiscated art treasures on a scale beyond belief. In peace-time, too, there has been plundering of art: Lord Elgin lifted the Elgin Marbles from Athens on the excuse of saving them from destruction, which is partly true; millionaires have acquired pictures and other treasures; museums have vied for the loot of former wars. Its fundamentally fascinating subject-matter too often obscured by repetitions, long and tedious quotations and a heavy-handed style, this book will appeal more to students and historians of art than to the average art-lover; librarians and curators of museums should find it a useful work of reference.

Pub Date: Aug. 25th, 1961
Publisher: John Day