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Plunder: Napoleon's Theft of Veronese's Feast

A captivating study of Napoleon’s plundering of Europe’s art for the Louvre, told through the story of a Renaissance masterpiece seized from Venice.

Cynthia Saltzman’s Plunder recounts the fate of Veronese’sWedding Feast at Cana, a vast, sublime canvas that theFrench, under the command of a young Napoleon Bonaparte,tore from a wall of the monastery of San GiorgioMaggiore, on an island in Venice, in 1797. Painted in1563, the Renaissance picture had been immediatelyhailed as a masterpiece. Veronese had spread the sceneacross the end wall of the monastery’s refectory and filledit with some 130 figures, lavishing color on the canvasto build the illusion that the biblical banquet was takingplace on a terrace in sixteenth-century Venice. Once itwas pulled from its frame, the canvas crossed the Mediterraneanrolled on a cylinder, bound for Paris; soon after,artworks commandeered in Venice and Rome were triumphantlybrought to the French capital. In 1801, theVeronese went on exhibition at the Louvre, the new publicart museum founded during the Revolution, in theformer palace of the French kings. Paperback, 336 pages.

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