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Birmingham Bar Association Bulletin - Fall 2013

Book Reviews The Fallen Angel By Daniel Silva | Harper Collins NY, 2012 - 436 pgs Daniel Silva has created several novels using an art restorer as the main character by the name of Gabriel Allon, an Israeli art restorer who, in this novel, is restoring an original work of art in the Vatican. The story centers on a murder which takes place in St. Peter’s in Rome wherein the body of a young museum curator, the “fallen angel,” is found on the floor of St. Peter’s Basilica beneath the Michelangelo dome. The art restorer in this case is also a former member of Israeli’s secret intelligence and the story moves from Rome to Paris to Vienna to Germany to Denmark, etc. Gabriel Allon is a character who is obviously a superman with a past and he represents Israeli extremism in its relations with its neighbors. The author was born and raised as a Roman Catholic and converted to Judaism as an adult. This book is also a fascinating read if the reader’s interest is in art restoration, and trafficking in Etruscan antiquities. Continuing with the art preservation theme, we next segue into... Saving Italy By Robert M. Edsel | W.W. Norton & Co., NY, 2013 - 454 pgs. Robert Edsel is also the author of a book which has been reviewed in these pages previously called The Monuments Men concerning the recovery of original art works confiscated by the Nazis before and during World War II. The Monuments Men, now a movie, tells the story of locating art works in Switzerland, Austria, and Germany. Saving Italy concerns the recovery of famous art from Italy. One of the more interesting aspects of this book is how the famous fresco, The Last Supper by Leonardo Da Vinci, was saved. The building where the painting exists to this day is located in the Santa Maria Delle Grazi Church in Milan, Italy, which was partially destroyed by allied bombings during WWII. The book contains photographs of what The Last Supper looked like before WWII and what it looked like during and after WWII and what steps were taken to preserve this famous fresco from further deterioration. This true story tells what Eisenhower’s policy was with regard to art objects: that people and soldiers ranked first and art objects came second. One of the most famous paintings recovered by the allies was Botticelli’s masterpiece Primavera, now in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence. This reviewer has toured the Tuscany area of Italy and seen many of these great works of art as they exist today. This history of how they were preserved and recovered from the Nazi chieftains who confiscated them is truly a riveting story. As you recall, one of the Birmingham Bar member’s ancestors was involved in The Monuments Men book and that member is Robert Posey with the United States Attorney’s office. This book, too, is a true story of the efforts employed to save these masterpieces from destruction and the men and women who actually participated in that effort. Editor Robert R. Kracke painting for a wealthy foreigner might, in fact, be the stolen Degas from the Museum. Then, she comes to the conclusion that the museum’s painting might, itself, be a copy. For your information, none of the paintings have been recovered to this day though the police believe it was a crime syndicate, such as the Mafia, that probably pulled it off without a hitch. Upon reading this fascinating story, the reader will discover what technique is used to reproduce paintings and to copy famous paintings. This method is called craquelure which creates the network of crackles or the web of antiquity on the surface of a painting. The protagonist is a young woman who is a professional restorer and painter of reproductions of famous paintings. The book also contains a love story between the protagonist and the art dealer, who proposes to sell the reproduction to a wealthy Arabian Sheik. This genre of the art world is a fascinating study of the underbelly of the legitimate art world. Then the plot thickens when the art restorer comes to believe that the “original” Degas delivered to her might in fact be a forgery. Apparently, many museums in the world have purchased such forgeries, believing them to be the original painting by the original artist. The story also revolves around a fictional secret relationship between Edgar Degas and Isabella Stewart Gardner related by the only descendant of Isabella Stewart Gardner, a niece who possesses “letters” between Degas and Gardner. This is truly a spellbinding mystery story which has a denouément which will surprise and delight the reader. This book can be purchased in any book store or online in paper back. This is a new book which can be found in most book stores. G Birmingham Bar Bulletin/ Fall 2013 23


Birmingham Bar Association Bulletin - Fall 2013
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