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The Venus fixers : the remarkable story of the Allied soldiers who saved Italy's art during World War II
2009
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Fiction/Biography Profile
Genre
NonFiction
Arts
History
War
Topics
Italian art
Art history
Art
Art theft
Museums
World War II
Soldiers
Military history
Italian history
European history
Setting
Italy - Europe
Time Period
-- 20th century
Large Cover Image
Trade Reviews

  Library Journal Review

In her first book, journalist Brey tells the story of the Allied monuments officers, commonly known as the "Venus Fixers." These were middle-aged art historians, scholars, and architects-newly commissioned lieutenants and captains-from the United States and Britain tasked with saving and restoring Italian painting, sculptures, and architecture during the Italian campaigns of 1943-45 with few resources and limited authority. While much has been written about Nazi efforts to plunder European art, comparatively little has been written on Allied efforts to save Europe's cultural heritage. Brey's book is more about art than it is about war, but she effectively places her story within the context of the larger Allied efforts in Europe. Verdict This engaging and clearly written book will appeal to readers interested in art history and preservation. Those without a knowledge of art but intrigued by its fate during World War II will want to skip this and read Hector Feliciano's The Lost Museum or Lynn H. Nicholas's The Rape of Europa. (Index and illustrations not seen.)-Michael Farrell, Reformed Theological Seminary Lib., Oviedo, FL (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

  Publishers Weekly Review

They were a gaggle of misfits-nerdy, old, bookish and sometimes pompous and abrasive. Yet the group of Allied soldiers nicknamed "the Venus Fixers" believed that saving Italy's culture-from bombing, from Goring's coffers, from careless soldiers-was an essential component of the war effort. Initially, it was the Italians who tried to find safe havens for the art, and then the job fell to the Venus Fixers, who performed triage after an area was secured by the military. In one harrowing tale, Brey describes how the Venus Fixers saved delicate manuscripts from being bulldozed along with rubble into the Arno. Often these artistic subversives were at odds with their own armies. In her first book, journalist and translator Brey isn't as skilled as one would like in bringing her soldiers to life on the page-a shame, given what a unique bunch they were and what an unusual task they had-but the book makes a strong case for what the Allies were fighting for in Italy: its history, and the artworks that continue to inspire us today. 8 pages of b&w illus. (Aug.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Summary
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 wasn't 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 , Titian's voluptuous masterpiece, an intended birthday present for Hermann G�ring.They worked with skeptical army strategists to make sure air raids didn't 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 Italy's 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.
Table of Contents
Mapsp. x
Prologuep. 3
Chapter 1Italian Art Goes to Warp. 9
Chapter 2"Men Must Manoeuvre"p. 39
Chapter 3Sicilian Preludep. 60
Chapter 4The Birth of the Venus Fixersp. 74
Chapter 5The Conflict of the Present and the Pastp. 92
Chapter 6Treasure Huntp. 110
Chapter 7Florence Dividedp. 147
Chapter 8A Time to Rend, a Time to Sewp. 177
Chapter 9The Duelistsp. 200
Chapter 10Alpine Lootp. 229
Epilogue A Necessary Dreamp. 254
Notesp. 263
Select Bibliographyp. 283
Acknowledgmentsp. 289
Indexp. 295
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