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Saving Italy: The Race to Rescue a Nation's…
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Saving Italy: The Race to Rescue a Nation's Treasures from the Nazis (edició 2014)

de Robert M. Edsel (Autor)

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When Hitler's armies occupied Italy in 1943, they also seized control of mankind's greatest cultural treasures. As they had done throughout Europe, the Nazis could now plunder the masterpieces of the Renaissance, the treasures of the Vatican, and the antiquities of the Roman Empire. In May 1944 two unlikely American heroes--artist Deane Keller and scholar Fred Hartt--embarked from Naples on the treasure hunt of a lifetime, tracking billions of dollars of missing art, including works by Michelangelo, Donatello, Titian, Caravaggio, and Botticelli.… (més)
Membre:JBundy
Títol:Saving Italy: The Race to Rescue a Nation's Treasures from the Nazis
Autors:Robert M. Edsel (Autor)
Informació:W. W. Norton & Company (2014), Edition: Illustrated, 496 pages
Col·leccions:La teva biblioteca
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Saving Italy: The Race to Rescue a Nation's Treasures from the Nazis de Robert M. Edsel

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Saving the art of Italy during WWII involved a hodge podge of personnel. Italian art curators and clergy, Allied members of the MFAA (Monuments Men) and even high ranking Nazi SS officers all worked to protect Italian cultural heritage, but each for their own reasons. The Germans protected the art as it was Hilter's love of Florence and its artwork. the Italians worked with the Allied Monuments Men to hide and protect as much as possible from war destruction and theft by the Nazis. This book follows the actions of a wide range of men dedicated to the safety of Italy's cultural heritage, the heritage of the whole of western civilization. I found the writing and organization of this book to be rather haphazard and at times exceedingly dull. But, the information was well documented from multiple sitings. The subject matter was something I knew little about, as it was never covered in my art history classes in college (Art major). Now I feel that I have a better understanding as to what went on behind the actual battles to preserve and protect our collective cultural heritage. It was a daunting mission for such a few men. Without them, most of the art and culture of Italy would have been lost or deteriorating in hidden locations. I understand the need to preserve and protect the art as it represents the history of western civilization. It is more important today as I watch the desecration and destruction of statues, monuments and memorials by anarchists intent upon destroying and revising the good and bad history of my country. We learn from our past. ( )
  Raspberrymocha | Jun 21, 2020 |
Saving Italy is Robert Edsel's unfortunately rather disappointing follow-up to 2009's The Monuments Men, which told us the story of an Anglo-American task force set up during World War Two by the Western Allies to identify, reclaim and preserve the millions of pieces of priceless artwork stolen by the Nazis in their years of conquest and plunder, as well as to protect the countless cathedrals, historic buildings and monuments that stood in the crossfire of the Allied and German clashes. The Monuments Men told the story of how this was accomplished in France, the Low Countries and Germany itself; Saving Italy tells us how they went on – as you may have guessed from the title – in Italy.

This should have been fertile ground for a fascinating story. Italy, birthplace of the Renaissance, is home to many of the world's finest artistic treasures. Indeed, the German general Albert Kesselring, quoted by Edsel, compared the Italian campaign to "fight[ing] in a museum" (pg. 158). We are told how instantly-recognisable pieces like Michelangelo's David and Leonardo da Vinci's The Last Supper, as well as monuments like the Leaning Tower of Pisa and the Pompeii excavation, fared during the war years, but it's not enough to make Saving Italy a gripping read. There are quite a lot of problems to review.

The first thing you notice is that Edsel's co-writer from The Monuments Men, Bret Witter, did not return for this book. I don't know the extent of Witter's input in the first book, and consequently how large a factor this is, but the tone of Saving Italy is much more academic – that is to say, dry – than its predecessor. The Monuments Men was gripping, atmospheric and packed full of anecdotes – it had, to use the modern parlance, a 'human interest' angle. Saving Italy seems, instead, to focus on listing and cataloguing all the individual pieces of art that were moved through Italy during the war; the closest thing it gets to a Monuments Men-esque anecdote is the 'Ave Maria' bit on pages 132-3.

Some of this is hardly Edsel's fault. As he notes on pages 309-10, Italy was an ally to Germany rather than a conquered nation, and consequently was spared much of the widespread looting that affected other European countries (indeed, Edsel tells us how Hitler loved Italian cities and explicitly prohibited his Nazi stooges from removing a lot of their treasures). This means Edsel cannot introduce the thrilling investigative detective work that made The Monuments Men such a winner. It also means that because a lot of Italian art was tucked away in various safe places by Italian authorities, rather than shanghaied out of the country on a train to the salt mines of Austria as happened in other parts of Europe, recovering the treasures – whilst still hard and occasionally dangerous work for the Monuments Men themselves – was often less exciting, at least for the reader.

But other flaws in Saving Italy are, perhaps, the fault of the author. Other winning Monuments Men qualities, like the question over whether it is moral to risk human life to save pieces of marble and canvas, are largely unexplored here. Crucially, Edsel is unsuccessful in convincing us of the importance of much of the artwork at risk. Before reading The Monuments Men, I'd never even heard of the Ghent Altarpiece, but the prospect of the Nazis spiriting it away quickly began to anger me, and I shared Edsel's wonder at many of the pieces recovered. I did not get the same emotion reading Saving Italy, except perhaps for the pieces I was already aware of (damn, The Last Supper was really on its last legs). This is, in my opinion, the greatest failing of the book; it is a book about art that fails to convince us of the importance of art. In contrast to the wondrous descriptions and eulogies of art in the first book, witness, for example, the following justification for the preservation of an old building in Florence:

"Begun in 1246, Santa Maria Novella was the city's first great basilica. Its façade features unique S-shaped volutes and a broad, triangular pediment inlaid with geometric patterns of green and white marble. The upper portion is one of the few Renaissance façades on any of the churches in Florence. The interior, containing a wooden crucifix carved by Brunelleschi and fresco cycles painted by Domenico Ghirlandaio and Filippino Lippi, remains a critically important example of the late Gothic period in Europe." (pg. 106)

That reads like it was copy-and-pasted straight from an art-history book or a sightseer's guide to Florence. Perhaps Edsel had tired of his subject – or, at least, the crafting into a book what had been fruitful and enjoyable research. Whatever the reason, Saving Italy is a workmanlike attempt, in complete contrast to the élan and enthusiasm that characterised its predecessor.

I don't think it's unfair at all to compare Saving Italy to The Monuments Men; books on the same subject by the same author but producing for the reader results at different ends of the scale. The fact that Saving Italy is a continuation of The Monuments Men story only emphasises how, as a piece of narrative history, it pales in comparison. It does, however, give us some dimensions which were not present in its predecessor; one thing that particularly interested me is that, absent Nazi looting which characterised Monuments Men efforts in France and the Low Countries, the major threat to Italian art was often Allied airpower. The Last Supper, for example, was nearly destroyed by an Allied air raid, and Edsel gives us a good insight into how Allied commanders resolved whether or not to bomb the ancient monastery at Monte Cassino (they did).

Above all, it's worth remembering that whilst Edsel's execution was less assured than in his previous book, the message is just as important as ever: art and monument matters if a civilization is to stay in touch with its history, its ideals and its humanity. Perhaps the message is even more crucial now: one only has to look to the news at the moment to see ISIS thugs in Syria blowing up ancient ruins, executing people in the Roman amphitheatre at Palmyra and trading priceless treasures – 'blood antiques' – on the black market to fund their further crimes. Seventy years after a bunch of unassuming British and American art scholars fought to preserve some of the defining artworks of Western civilization, irreplaceable works of the East are still being destroyed by ignorance, greed and war. ( )
  Mike_F | Apr 22, 2017 |
Thorough and interesting account of the Allies efforts to protect and save the art legacy that was in Italy during WW 2. The audio version was read well and handled difficult names and place with great fluency. ( )
  jamespurcell | May 11, 2016 |
This was a fascinating book about a little known aspect of WWII. l couldn't put it down. It made me think back to all of the art I've seen around Europe's museums, if only I had realized that their story was so much more complex than simply being painted and then hung on a wall in a gallery. I'll never look at art the same again. ( )
  sscarllet | Nov 20, 2014 |
A readable and illuminating account of the efforts to preserve the art and monuments of Italy not just from the Nazis but also from the bombs and ill-use of Allied forces. The efforts of those involved cannot be understated, and Edsel tells their story very well. He also notes the major differences between the efforts in Italy and those in other areas occupied by the Germans. At first I was slightly put off by the amount of space devoted to the negotiations on ending the war in Italy, but Edsel ends up making a good case for the importance of those discussions in the overall context of protecting the art and monuments. ( )
1 vota JBD1 | Jul 20, 2014 |
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When Hitler's armies occupied Italy in 1943, they also seized control of mankind's greatest cultural treasures. As they had done throughout Europe, the Nazis could now plunder the masterpieces of the Renaissance, the treasures of the Vatican, and the antiquities of the Roman Empire. In May 1944 two unlikely American heroes--artist Deane Keller and scholar Fred Hartt--embarked from Naples on the treasure hunt of a lifetime, tracking billions of dollars of missing art, including works by Michelangelo, Donatello, Titian, Caravaggio, and Botticelli.

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