The Venus Fixers: The Remarkable Story of the Allied Monuments Officers Who Saved Italy's Art During World War II
Ilaria Dagnini Brey
Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub
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.
1945, Public Record Office, National Archives, London WO 204–1908, Lessons from Operations in Italy, May 1944–November 1945, Public Record Office, National Archives, London Books Alabiso, Anna Chiara, ed. La “Danae” di Tiziano. Naples: Electa, 2005. Alexander of Tunis. The Alexander Memoirs, 1940–1945. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1962. Astarita, Tommaso. Between Salt Water and Holy Water: A History of Southern Italy. New York: W. W. Norton, 2005. Baracchini, Clara, and Enrico Castelnuovo,
Giannella, Salvatore, and Pier Damiano Mandelli. L’arca dell’arte. Milan: Delfi, 1999. Guiotto, Mario. I monumenti della Sicilia occidentale danneggiati dalla guerra: protezioni, danni, opere di pronto intervento. Palermo: Soprintendenza ai Monumenti di Palermo, 1946. Haas, Günther. Kunstraub und Kunstschutz, eine Dokumentation. Hildesheim: Georg Olms, 1991. Hamilton, Olive. Paradise of Exiles: Tuscany and the British. London: André Deutsch, 1974. Hapgood, David, and David Richardson. Monte
at the time. Temporary storage of the artworks in Padua or Verona—lovely cities that the circumstances of the war had turned into the seats of the last Fascist redoubt—would likely lead to a transfer across the border into Austria. Germany, their final destination, would irretrievably link Italian art to the Reich’s ultimate fate as spoils or fatalities of war. But as the superintendent turned his glance south, he could see the mighty force of the Allied armies already advancing within Tuscan
through the crowds, Linklater had instructed them, and find a little room with a pleasant painting “in the style of Luini.” The two journalists located the room, which was to become their living quarters and working space during their stay, with its pretty sixteenth-century canvas; yet they were far more delighted to discover a faucet that, one droplet at a time, could fill a glass in a quarter of an hour. In a city where the Germans had dynamited all water mains, this was a ducal luxury. During
thirteenth- and fourteenth-century Tuscan painting. That was not the entire story, though. The custodian of the golf club told Hartt that the superintendent of Pisa in person had delivered the masterpieces. The date of the transfer, only a few weeks prior to Hartt’s visit, meant that the art official had whisked the paintings out of Pisa right before the beginning of the intense artillery battle and street-by-street fighting that would see large parts of the city leveled. His action had been