In preparation for a day when I would be spending a lot of time in the car, I took a short visit to the audiobook collection at Central Library. For me, commutes or road trips become much more enjoyable when I have a good book to listen to. I gathered up a few titles, including a favorite I have listened to a number of time, The Prophet by Khalil Gibran, and headed to the self check-out. At the last second, one more title caught my eye titled The Art Detective: fakes, frauds, and finds and the search for lost treasures by Philip Mould. I quickly snatched up the title knowing it was right up my alley and could likely keep me intently listening for hours.
The author, Philip Mould, is an art dealer from London. He has gained popularity through his dealings over the years and has been an appraiser on the BBC's Antiques Roadshow. He spends much of his time researching and examining paintings that are up for auction all over the world judging their worth by considering their subject, attribution, state of preservation, popularity, and provenance. His book tells stories from during his career when lost paintings have been identified and forgeries uncovered. Through art historical research in libraries and archives, and scientific innovations, art connoisseurs are able to learn more about how a work of art originally looked and functioned than ever before. Mould, his colleagues, and his many friends in the art world painstakingly follow leads and try to trace back a painting's history to determine its' origins.
The six chapters each tell different stories of discoveries - identifications of "sleepers" (works by great masters who have somehow been forgotten or misidentified as belonging to a lesser artist), exposing forgeries of great works, and uncovering the greatness of a masterpiece by removing extensive overpainting or darkened varnish. A great storyteller, Mould is able to keep your attention easily. The audiobook is very enjoyable, however, I might recommend the book because it includes before and after restoration pictures of the paintings mentioned in the book. The pictures of the Rembrandt Self-Portrait depict an especially delightful transformation (note: if you like Rembrandt, you don't want to miss the current exhibition at the Detroit Institute of Arts)!
If you are interested in art history mysteries, you may also enjoy the video titled The Da Vinci Detective about Maurizio Seracini, the director of the Center of Interdisciplinary Science for Art, Architecture, and Archaeology at the University of California, San Diego. Seracini has done extensive research on Da Vinci's Adoration of the Magi and has been instrumental in leading the search for the possibly lost fresco, The Battle of Anghiari. Though this search has been halted for a few years, it seems as though research has once again commenced using somewhat more invasive, but also more telling, procedures. (Hopefully soon, this search for Da Vinci's lost fresco will be forever solved!) I hope you'll enjoy these stories about the quest for lost art!
The Art Detective: fakes, frauds, and finds and the search for lost treasures