What a Loot! Country & Town House Magazine book review

Jun 8th, 2015 | By | Category: Art History Book, Magazine article | Review

Our book is getting a lot of worldwide attention. Country and Town House Magazine has written an insightful new article about the art history book as well as Ivan Lindsay, the Author.  Here is the article in case you missed it!Screen shot 2015-06-08 at 2.36.22 PM

Art theft exerts a strange power over the human imagination. It has a glamour and mystery that disguises the fact that it is as much a crime as stealing a packet of biscuits. It also has a very long history, as Ivan Lindsay’s new book, The History of Loot and Stolen Art, makes clear. Lindsay’s opening chapter deals with the Assyrian and Babylonian kings who reigned in the seventh and eighth centuries before Christ. His last deals with recent thefts such as the raid in 1990 on the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, in which three Rembrandts, a Vermeer and other works of art were stolen.

Some of the most interesting passages of the book deal with the vexed issue of the restitution of stolen works of art. Restitution is no dry, academic debate, as the question of the Elgin Marbles demonstrates. Lindsay feels strongly that the Marbles – mocked by Byron as ‘maimed antiques’ – should remain in the British Museum. They were legally acquired by Lord Elgin and lawfully purchased by the British government. They would have been destroyed had Elgin not rescued them. The British Museum is a fitting place for them: it attracts six million visitors a year and is free.

The book covers a wide span of history, even if it perhaps falls short of its ambitious aim ‘to provide an alternative history of the Western world.’ It examines the looting of Constantinople during the Fourth Crusade, orchestrated by Enrico Dandolo, the blind Doge of Venice. Dandolo, Lindsay writes, ‘is a contender for the greatest art thief of all time’. There are interesting chapters on Queen Christina of Sweden who stole great tranches of the Hapsburgs’ collections at the end of the Thirty Years’ War, on the accumulation and dispersal of Charles I’s art collection, on Napoleon’s depredations and, inevitably, on the industrial-scale looting perpetrated by the Nazis in the 1930s and ’40s. It is also richly illustrated.

Lindsay is an art dealer by trade, specializing in Old Masters and Russian art. After Eton he did
a stint in the Scots Guards before joining fine art insurers Hiscox. Art is in his blood: his grandfather, the Earl of Crawford, was chairman of the trustees of the National Gallery and the National Gallery of Scotland and his father is a well-known picture restorer. As an Old Master dealer, Lindsay has set records for private sales of both Goya and Canaletto.

He started dealing in Russian art ten years ago. He deals in the pictures and sculptures of the Russian Soviet period, 1920–1970, sometimes referred to as ‘Socialist Realism’: 1920s artists like Korovin, Arkhipov and Roerich, 1960s artists like Plastov, Stozharov and Andronov and sculptors such as Mukhina, Shadr and Manizer. Whereas the Russian Avant Garde school is well known in the West, Soviet-era art is not, although, as
Lindsay says, ‘it has become a lot more sought-after in the ten years I’ve been dealing in it’. At the moment the buyers are all Russian – ‘they love their art and chase it aggressively’ – but Lindsay is convinced that it will break out. The present lack of interest in Soviet-era art in the West is due, he thinks, to ignorance. Perhaps this will be corrected by Lindsay’s next book, Masterpieces of Soviet Painting and Sculpture, due out this year.

You can also read an article about the book here.

Leave a Comment