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The Venus Fixers: The Remarkable Story of the Allied Soldiers Who Saved Italy's Art During World War II

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The Venus Fixers: The Remarkable Story of the Allied Soldiers Who Saved Italy's Art During World War II Cover

 

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

In 1943, while the world was convulsed by war, a few visionaries—in the private sector and in the military—committed to protect Europe's cultural heritage from the indiscriminate ravages of battle.

And so the Allies appointed the Monuments Officers, a motley group of art historians, curators, architects, and artists, to ensure that the masterpieces of European art and architecture were not looted or bombed into oblivion. Often working as shellfire exploded around them, the Monuments Officers of Italy shored up tottering palaces and cathedrals, safeguarded Michelangelos and Giottos, and even blocked a Nazi convoy of stolen paintings bound for Göring's birthday celebration. Sometimes they failed. But to an astonishing degree they succeeded, and their story is an unparalleled adventure with the gorgeous tints of a Botticelli as its backdrop.

Ilaria Dagnini Brey is a journalist and translator who was born in Padua, Italy. She now lives in New York City with her husband, Carter Brey, the principal cellist of the New York Philharmonic. This is her first book.

In 1943, with the world convulsed by war and a Fascist defeat in Europe far from certain, a few visionaries—civilians and soldiers alike—saw past questions of life and death to realize that victory wasnt the only thing at stake. So was the priceless cultural heritage of thousands of years.

In the midst of the conflict, the Allied Forces appointed the monuments officers—a motley group of art historians, curators, architects, and artists—to ensure that the great masterworks of European art and architecture were not looted or bombed into oblivion. The journalist Ilaria Dagnini Brey focuses her spellbinding account on the monuments officers of Italy, quickly dubbed “the Venus Fixers” by bemused troops.  

Working on the front lines in conditions of great deprivation and danger, these unlikely soldiers stripped the great galleries of their incomparable holdings and sent them into safety by any means they could; when trucks could not be requisitioned or “borrowed,” a Tiepolo altarpiece might make its midnight journey across the countryside balanced in the front basket of a bicycle. They blocked a Nazi convoy of two hundred stolen paintings—including Danae, Titians voluptuous masterpiece, an intended birthday present for Hermann Göring. They worked with skeptical army strategists to make sure air raids didnt take out the heart of an ancient city, and patched up Renaissance palazzi and ancient churches whose lead roofs were sometimes melted away by the savagery of the attacks, exposing their frescoed interiors to the harsh Tuscan winters and blistering summers. Sometimes they failed. But to an astonishing degree, they succeeded, and anyone who marvels at Italys artistic riches today is witnessing their handiwork.

In the course of her research, Brey gained unprecedented access to private archives and primary sources, and the result is a book at once thorough and grandly entertaining—a revelatory take on a little-known chapter of World War II history. The Venus Fixers is an adventure story with the gorgeous tints of a Botticelli landscape as its backdrop.

"During World War II, the destruction of Italian monuments was as vast as it was heartbreaking. Much of the irreparable devastation that was authorized by the necessities of war had little strategic value. Paintings and sculptures were lost forever. Many more were reconstructed from shreds and scraps. The tragedy could have been worse. The Venus Fixers, by Ilaria Dagnini Brey, tells us why the country's cultural sites paid less of a price than the circumstances might have exacted. A small brigade of monuments officers—architects, professors and art historians in civilian life from the Ivy League and Oxbridge—propped up collapsing buildings, removed art from the line of fire and—when they could—guided bombs away from cultural treasures. The support of Gen. (and Supreme Allied Commander) Dwight D. Eisenhower, while not absolute, was crucial. Brey resurrects a cast of heroic officers who minimized that damage. The world's debt to them is huge. We follow architects as they race to buttress buildings on the verge of collapse and watch art historians gather fragments of ceilings and frescoes. With the help of local Italians (sometimes former fascist officials), they held buildings together until real preservation work began, and kept homeless civilians from squatting there. The landscape of Italy would be far different without them."—David D'Arcy, San Francisco Chronicle

"One of the most pleasing sights in Florence is the Ponte Santa Trinita, a masterpiece of the Renaissance that has a strong claim to being the most beautiful bridge in Europe . . . That the little bridge—to say nothing of churches, villas, palaces, libraries and the great paintings of the Uffizi—can be admired today is due largely to the salvage efforts of a small group of American and British soldiers. Mostly architects, artists and art historians, they risked their lives protecting and repairing in the midst of war much of the Western World's cultural history. Their story is celebrated in Brey's engaging and important addition to the vast library of books about World War II. Brey has firm command of art and military history and does an excellent job of evoking the atmosphere of a war-torn country."—Michael Riedel, New York Post

“Art and war come together in this superbly researched history that reveals how Italys Renaissance masterpieces were caught in the crossfire of World War II. Ilaria Dagnini Brey recounts how many of these works almost miraculously survived, and who we have to thank for saving them—a somewhat unlikely crew of art historians, scholars, and architects. She shows how their quiet courage stood between some of the worlds greatest treasures and a fate almost unbearable to contemplate.”—Ross King, author of Brunelleschis Dome: How a Renaissance Genius Reinvented Architecture

The Venus Fixers is an extraordinary story—tragic, poignant, and inspiring by turn. A must-read for anyone who recognizes that the mute victims of any countrys war are frequently its works of art, it brings to light a little-known and entirely absorbing aspect of World War II.”—Caroline P. Murphy, author of Murder of a Medici Princess

“Ilaria Dagnini Brey expertly recounts the race to protect masterpieces of art and architecture caught on the battlefront. Fascinating and brilliantly researched, The Venus Fixers is a story of Botticellis hidden in castles, the monuments officers heroism, and the arts often narrow escape, played out against air strikes and looting, leveled churches and shattered frescoes.”—Cynthia Saltzman, author of Old Masters, New World: Americas Raid on Europes Great Pictures

“In this finely written and researched first book, full of anecdotes that will fascinate all art lovers, Ilaria Dagnini Brey adds wonderful insight and detail to the gripping story of the miraculous preservation of many of the worlds most treasured masterpieces during the Allied campaign in Italy. The heroes are the curators of Italys patrimony and the fabled monuments men attached to the Allied invasion forces, and Ms. Brey does them proud.”—Lynn H. Nicholas, author of The Rape of Europa: The Fate of Europes Treasures in the Third Reich and the Second World War

"A poignant wartime reminder of an ancient truth: Ars longa, vita brevis."—Kirkus Reviews

"This engaging and clearly written book will appeal to readers interested in art history and preservation."—Library Journal

Synopsis:

An untold chapter in WWII history, the story of the corps of unlikely soldiers who saved Italy's most precious art and architecture from destruction.

Synopsis:

In 1943, while the world was convulsed by war, a few visionaries—in the private sector and in the military—committed to protect Europe's cultural heritage from the indiscriminate ravages of World War Two.

And so the Allies appointed the Monuments Officers, a motley group of art historians, curators, architects, and artists, to ensure that the masterpieces of European art and architecture were not looted or bombed into oblivion. Often working as shellfire exploded around them, the Monuments men and women of Italy shored up tottering palaces and cathedrals, safeguarded Michelangelos and Giottos, and even blocked a Nazi convoy of stolen paintings bound for Göring's birthday celebration. Sometimes they failed. But to an astonishing degree they succeeded, and their story is an unparalleled adventure with the gorgeous tints of a Botticelli as its backdrop.

Synopsis:

In 1943, with the world convulsed by war and a Fascist defeat in Europe far from certain, a few visionariescivilians and soldiers alikesaw past questions of life and death to realize that victory wasnt the only thing at stake. So was the priceless cultural heritage of thousands of years.

In the midst of the conflict, the Allied Forces appointed the monuments officersa motley group of art historians, curators, architects, and artiststo ensure that the great masterworks of European art and architecture were not looted or bombed into oblivion. The journalist Ilaria Dagnini Brey focuses her spellbinding account on the monuments officers of Italy, quickly dubbed “the Venus Fixers” by bemused troops.

Working on the front lines in conditions of great deprivation and danger, these unlikely soldiers stripped the great galleries of their incomparable holdings and sent them into safety by any means they could; when trucks could not be requisitioned or “borrowed,” a Tiepolo altarpiece might make its midnight journey across the countryside balanced in the front basket of a bicycle. They blocked a Nazi convoy of two hundred stolen paintingsincluding Danae, Titians voluptuous masterpiece, an intended birthday present for Hermann Göring.They worked with skeptical army strategists to make sure air raids didnt take out the heart of an ancient city, and patched up Renaissance palazzi and ancient churches whose lead roofs were sometimes melted away by the savagery of the attacks, exposing their frescoed interiors to the harsh Tuscan winters and blistering summers. Sometimes they failed. But to an astonishing degree, they succeeded, and anyone who marvels at Italys artistic riches today is witnessing their handiwork.

In the course of her research, Brey gained unprecedented access to private archives and primary sources, and the result is a book at once thorough and grandly entertaininga revelatory take on a little-known chapter of World War II history. The Venus Fixers is an adventure story with the gorgeous tints of a Botticelli landscape as its backdrop.

About the Author

Ilaria Dagnini Brey is a journalist and translator who was born in Padua, Italy. She now lives in New York City with her husband, Carter Brey, the principal cellist of the New York Philharmonic. This is her first book.

Product Details

ISBN:
9780312429904
Author:
Brey, Ilaria
Publisher:
Picador USA
Author:
Brey, Ilaria Dagnini
Subject:
Military - World War II
Subject:
Conservation & Preservation
Subject:
Europe - Italy
Subject:
History : General
Subject:
History - Renaissance
Subject:
Military-World War II General
Edition Description:
Trade Paper
Publication Date:
20100631
Binding:
TRADE PAPER
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Illustrations:
Plus one 16-page bandw photo section
Pages:
336
Dimensions:
8.26 x 5.5 x 0.91 in

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Related Subjects

Arts and Entertainment » Art » Conservation and Preservation
Arts and Entertainment » Art » General
Arts and Entertainment » Art » History and Criticism
Arts and Entertainment » Art » Italian
Arts and Entertainment » Sale Books
History and Social Science » Military » World War II » General

The Venus Fixers: The Remarkable Story of the Allied Soldiers Who Saved Italy's Art During World War II Sale Trade Paper
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Product details 336 pages Picador USA - English 9780312429904 Reviews:
"Synopsis" by ,
An untold chapter in WWII history, the story of the corps of unlikely soldiers who saved Italy's most precious art and architecture from destruction.
"Synopsis" by ,

In 1943, while the world was convulsed by war, a few visionaries—in the private sector and in the military—committed to protect Europe's cultural heritage from the indiscriminate ravages of World War Two.

And so the Allies appointed the Monuments Officers, a motley group of art historians, curators, architects, and artists, to ensure that the masterpieces of European art and architecture were not looted or bombed into oblivion. Often working as shellfire exploded around them, the Monuments men and women of Italy shored up tottering palaces and cathedrals, safeguarded Michelangelos and Giottos, and even blocked a Nazi convoy of stolen paintings bound for Göring's birthday celebration. Sometimes they failed. But to an astonishing degree they succeeded, and their story is an unparalleled adventure with the gorgeous tints of a Botticelli as its backdrop.

"Synopsis" by ,

In 1943, with the world convulsed by war and a Fascist defeat in Europe far from certain, a few visionariescivilians and soldiers alikesaw past questions of life and death to realize that victory wasnt the only thing at stake. So was the priceless cultural heritage of thousands of years.

In the midst of the conflict, the Allied Forces appointed the monuments officersa motley group of art historians, curators, architects, and artiststo ensure that the great masterworks of European art and architecture were not looted or bombed into oblivion. The journalist Ilaria Dagnini Brey focuses her spellbinding account on the monuments officers of Italy, quickly dubbed “the Venus Fixers” by bemused troops.

Working on the front lines in conditions of great deprivation and danger, these unlikely soldiers stripped the great galleries of their incomparable holdings and sent them into safety by any means they could; when trucks could not be requisitioned or “borrowed,” a Tiepolo altarpiece might make its midnight journey across the countryside balanced in the front basket of a bicycle. They blocked a Nazi convoy of two hundred stolen paintingsincluding Danae, Titians voluptuous masterpiece, an intended birthday present for Hermann Göring.They worked with skeptical army strategists to make sure air raids didnt take out the heart of an ancient city, and patched up Renaissance palazzi and ancient churches whose lead roofs were sometimes melted away by the savagery of the attacks, exposing their frescoed interiors to the harsh Tuscan winters and blistering summers. Sometimes they failed. But to an astonishing degree, they succeeded, and anyone who marvels at Italys artistic riches today is witnessing their handiwork.

In the course of her research, Brey gained unprecedented access to private archives and primary sources, and the result is a book at once thorough and grandly entertaininga revelatory take on a little-known chapter of World War II history. The Venus Fixers is an adventure story with the gorgeous tints of a Botticelli landscape as its backdrop.

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