Book Review: The History of Loot and Stolen Art From Antiquity Until the Present Day

stolen art In college, I was required to take a few Arts/Humanities classes to ensure that my science major was well rounded.  I opted to take an Art History class--and enjoyed it so much that I even considered changing my major a few times.  When I was asked to read and review Ivan Lindsay, The History of Loot and Stolen Art--I immediately agreed.  What did I think of The History of Loot and Stolen Art From Antiquity Until the Present Day?

I received a copy of this book for use in my review.  All opinions are my own.

Summary from the The History of Loot and Stolen Art.  Since World War Two, audacious art theft has continued at a steady rate. Interpol’s dedicated art theft department circulates a list of stolen works which now contains over 30,000 items, the top fifty most valuable of which comprise a staggering selection: Rembrandts, Vermeers, Caravaggios, Rubens, Picassos, Renoirs, van Goghs and Monets. When we think of looted art, the Nazis often spring to mind. Between 1939 and 1945 Germany removed 592.48 tons of gold from the occupied countries and looted an estimated twenty percent of Europe’s finest artworks. This art was distributed for Hitler’s benefit, including as gifts to henchmen such as Hermann Göring, who kept a staggering 1,500 paintings at his country estate Karinhall. However, as A History of Loot and Stolen Art grippingly reveals, looting of treasures and artworks has been rife since the earliest days of man.

Examining the motivations of the world’s leading looters and art thieves, and the efforts that have been made at restitution of valuable works, A History of Loot and Stolen Art traces an astonishing line in history. Starting with the Ancients; Greeks, Romans, Vikings, Moors and Charlemagne, the author reveals the lust for pride of ownership and power over vanquished enemies that has driven conquerors throughout history to ruthless pillaging. From Sargon II who ruled Syria between 721 and 705 BC, Alexander the Great, Cesare Borgia, Pizarro the Spanish conquistador who defeated the Incan Empire; to Francis Drake, Napoleon Bonaparte, Joseph Stalin, Hermann Goering and Adolf Hitler, we eventually reach the twenty ?rst century, in which hardly a day passes without news of another serious art theft.

The author, Ivan Lindsay, says: Researching The History of Loot and Stolen Art allowed me to study the looting exploits of some of history's leading warlords. This subject continues to fascinate people, as shown by the recent release of the film, The Monuments Men which recreates the actions of art historians saving art from destruction at the end of WWII. And in late 2010 a hoard of 1,280 Nazi-era looted artworks were discovered in the Munich apartment of 82 year old Rolf Nikolaus Cornelius Gurlitt, the reclusive son of an art dealer.’ Sumptuously illustrated with more than two hundred images, A History of Loot and Stolen Art is a fascinating plunge into an undeniably tantalizing, intriguing world.

A History of Loot and Stolen Art is packed with information and details.  This was a wonderful compilation of history, mystery, art, architecture--and power.  Each page is filled with historical details about pieces and their owners, and detailed accounts of how collections were lost, found, stolen, recovered, restored, and more.  The research that went into this book is presented effectively and wonderfully throughout its pages. 

A History of Loot and Stolen Art reminds of the value of art.  So many pieces of artwork and architecture were created for the powerful and wealthy--yet an appreciation exists across all social classes. As this book details pieces and collections amassed by the notorious and the power hungry--it's good to know that many looted pieces found their way into public collections for the enjoyment of all as well.

Would I recommend A History of Loot and Stolen Art?  The art/history side of me and the book lover side of me loved this book.  I reviewed an electronic version--but, will likely purchase a hardcover edition.  The photos and representations are graphically beautiful--but, I'm a little "old school" at times and want to feel the pages of the book as well.  If you have an interest in art history--and especially in the centuries of art looting that our world has seen--this book is a must have to add to your collection.

Buy the book:

Amazon | Telegraph

About the author:

ivan lindsayIvan Lindsay, who has researched the history of stolen art over many years, deals in old master paintings and Russian Twentieth century art. His enthusiasm and knowledge of his subject is highly evident in this book, which aims to become one of the seminal works on the subject.  

In his new book, The History of Loot of Stolen art, Ivan Lindsay examines the subject of art theft, listing the major art thieves through history and what they stole and why. Alexander the Great campaigned out of necessity to avoid Macedonian bankruptcy, removing 1,500 tons of gold alone from the Treasuries of the Persian Empire at Susa and Sardis, whereas the Vikings found undefended English monasteries full of gold and silver too tempting to ignore. Ivan Lindsay is an art dealer specializing in European and Russian paintings. He was educated at Eton College and the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. After four years in the British Army in South East Asia, he worked in the City of London before becoming an art dealer. He writes and lectures on art and the art market and is currently a Contributing Editor at Spears Magazine.
 Ivan Lindsay (Photograph courtesy of Sophie Lindsay Photography)

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  1. The correct link to my website is here



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