Saturday, November 13, 2010

Irresistible: How the Ghent Altarpiece Became the World's Most Frequently Stolen Artwork

A tiny city in a small European country, the medieval enclave of Ghent, Belgium, is home today to just under a quarter million people. It is also the current residence of a 15th-century artwork — a sumptuous, sprawling, and theologically complex 12-panel altarpiece known variously as the Ghent Altarpiece, "The Mystic Lamb," or, in Flemish, "Het Lam Gods" ("The Lamb of God") — that scholars consider to be one of the great masterpieces of Western civilization.

In a crowded and competitive field of admirers, one of the altarpiece's most ardent contemporary devotees is Noah Charney, the author of a new history called "Stealing the Mystic Lamb" that ascribes another superlative to the piece: the world's most frequently stolen artwork. In the book, with the breathless voice of a lover smitten with the one that got away (again and again), Charney charts the wrangling over a work that "collectors, dukes, generals, kings, and entire armies desired to such an extent that they killed, stole, and altered the strategic course of war to possess."

Click here to read this article from ArtInfo