Stolen Glories

“One of the first targets of an invading army is the art of the defeated. Once cities are secured, army officers of the occupying force seek museums, palaces and cathedrals, intent on retrieving art for the benefit of the victors. However politely done, it is no different from the pillaging of ancient history. Two new books examine the art theft of occupying armies in two different ages.

The Wedding Feast at Cana was painted by Paolo Veronese in 1563 for the wall of a Benedictine abbey on the Venetian isle of San Maggiore. Situated in the refectory, the picture depicts Christ seated at the centre of a wedding feast; the giant painting (almost 7 metres high by 10 metres wide) teems with brightly robed figures set in an illusionistically rendered architectural setting.  On completion, it was recognised as a masterpiece of the Late Renaissance/Mannerist era, with connoisseurs travelling from around Europe to marvel at the painting.

“Cynthia Saltzman’s Napoleon’s Plunder: The Theft of Veronese’s Feast recounts what happened when Napoleon defeated the Austrians and took control of northern Italy in 1796, and how his roving eye turned to art. Portable treasures were to be sold to finance the cost of the war effort; the greatest of the art would be reserved for the Musée Napoléon, the French Republic’s public art museum (sited in the Louvre). Saltzman outlines the extraction of art from not only Italy but Spain, Flanders, Holland, Vienna and Berlin, all intended for Napoleon’s museum….”

Read the full review at The Critic here: https://thecritic.co.uk/stolen-glories/