OVERRIDE

The Venus Fixers

The Remarkable Story of the Allied Monuments Officers Who Saved Italy's Art During World War II

Picador

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.

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.

BOOK EXCERPTS

Read an Excerpt

PROLOGUE

Florence looked pale and indistinct to Lt. Benjamin McCartney as he approached it aboard his Martin B-26 Marauder on the morning of March 11, 1944. It wasn’t haze that blurred the city skyline on that morning; in fact, as he would later write, “the weather was perfect, the visibility unlimited.” A sense of impending tragedy seemed to drain the beautiful city of its color in McCartney’s eyes as it slowly came into view. He had told his crew - his pilot and friend, Capt. Leonard Ackermann, his co-pilot, Lt. Robert Cooke, and their three enlisted men - that

BACK

REVIEWS

Praise for The Venus Fixers

“A significant and original contribution to World War II and art history alike.” —Gilbert Taylor, Booklist

“A thrilling adventure, full of scheming aesthetes and exploding Mantegnas . . . Brey tells this story with concision and grace.” —Benjamin Moser, Harper's Magazine

“An illuminating book . . . Elegant and compelling history, which is equally a blueprint for the safeguarding of our human heritage in future struggles.” —The American Scholar

“An 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

“Brey makes a significant contribution by delving into previously unexplored Italian archives to flesh out the perspective of the native population amid the chaos of war.” —Jonathan Lopez, The Boston Globe

“Art and war come together in this superbly researched history that reveals how Italy’s 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 world’s greatest treasures and a fate almost unbearable to contemplate.” —Ross King, author of Brunelleschi’s 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 country’s 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 art’s often narrow escape, played out against air strikes and looting, leveled churches and shattered frescoes.” —Cynthia Saltzman, author of Old Masters, New World: America’s Raid on Europe’s 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 world’s most treasured masterpieces during the Allied campaign in Italy. The heroes are the curators of Italy’s 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 Europe’s Treasures in the Third Reich and the Second World War

“A significant and original contribution to World War II and art history alike.” —Gilbert Taylor, Booklist

“A thrilling adventure, full of scheming aesthetes and exploding Mantegnas . . . Brey tells this story with concision and grace.” —Benjamin Moser, Harper's Magazine

“An illuminating book . . . Elegant and compelling history, which is equally a blueprint for the safeguarding of our human heritage in future struggles.” —The American Scholar

“An 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

“Brey makes a significant contribution by delving into previously unexplored Italian archives to flesh out the perspective of the native population amid the chaos of war.” —Jonathan Lopez, The Boston Globe

“Art and war come together in this superbly researched history that reveals how Italy’s 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 world’s greatest treasures and a fate almost unbearable to contemplate.” —Ross King, author of Brunelleschi’s 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 country’s 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 art’s often narrow escape, played out against air strikes and looting, leveled churches and shattered frescoes.” —Cynthia Saltzman, author of Old Masters, New World: America’s Raid on Europe’s 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 world’s most treasured masterpieces during the Allied campaign in Italy. The heroes are the curators of Italy’s 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 Europe’s Treasures in the Third Reich and the Second World War

Reviews from Goodreads

BACK

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.

BACK

COMMUNITY

TheHistoryReader.com

    MORE BLOG POSTS
    BACK

    BUY THE BOOK

    Available Formats and Book Details

    The Venus Fixers

    The Remarkable Story of the Allied Monuments Officers Who Saved Italy's Art During World War II

    BOOKS FOR COURSES AVAILABLE

    BACK

    FROM THE PUBLISHER

    Picador

    BACK