Sept. 22, 2006
A search for stolen artwork
Thousands of masterpieces taken by the Nazis have been found.
In the midst of modern "Da Vinci mania," there is no
shortage of books dedicated to helping people understand the long,
and often troubling, history behind some of our culture's most famous
works of art. It's hard to differentiate between them. But leave
it to a man who began his career in oil and gas exploration to excavate
a story that has remained largely untold until now.
In his first book, Rescuing Da Vinci , Texas-based entrepreneur
Robert Edsel exposes the compelling story behind the Nazis' systematic
plundering of Europe's art treasures and documents the extremes
to which Europe's art community went in order prevent this from
Rescuing Da Vinci also describes the shocking discovery made
by the Allied Forces at the conclusion of the war: thousands of
priceless works of art, successfully looted, buried and stashed
in Nazi repositories all over Germany and Austria. These hiding
places not only contained artifacts stolen from churches, museums
and individuals throughout Europe, but also housed the personal
collections of many prominent Nazis, such as Hermann Goering.
The direct result of this discovery was the formation of the U.S.
Armed Forces' Monuments Men, an elite group of American and British
museum directors, art historians and curators entrusted with the
task of uncovering and repatriating lost works of art, an ongoing
endeavor that could be considered one of the greatest treasure hunts
Although the work of the Monuments Men is still largely unknown
to the general public, their work is far from trivial. Since the
conclusion of the Second World War, they have recovered tens of
thousands of masterpieces, including art by Michelangelo, Rembrandt,
Vermeer, Picasso, Van Gogh and, of course, Da Vinci.
Despite the considerable efforts made by the Monuments Men, the
unsung heros of Europe's art world, Edsel adds to the intrigue by
revealing that many works of art have yet to be recovered, citing
Raphael's "Portrait of a Young Man" as a prime example.
In his first literary effort, oil magnate-cum-art lover Edsel succeeds
with flying colors. Complete with hundreds of never-before-seen
photos, many of them in full color, the book is as much a feast
for the eyes as it is food for thought. Throughout Rescuing Da
Vinci beats the pulse of excitement that accompanies any good
mystery, and it leaves the reader dying to know where still-uncovered
works of art may be.
For more information on the book, visit www.rescuingdavinci.com.
Stephanie Ramsay, a third-year student at the University
of Western Ontario, is a writer and editor for the Gazette,
the student daily.