Plundering Beauty: A History of Art Crime during War
Author: Arthur Tompkins (Caius 1983)
Publisher: Lund Humphries, London
Plundering Beauty (192pp; 53 colour and B&W images) is a broad, international overview of art crime during times of armed conflict. Examples of art crimes are drawn from wars through history, including the Fourth Crusade, the Napoleonic era, the Second World War and modern-day conflicts in Yugoslavia and Iraq.
The roll-call of wars down the centuries is paralleled by an equally extensive narrative of the theft, destruction, plundering, displacement and concealing of some of the greatest works of art during those conflicts - a story that is expertly told in this original publication.
From the many wars of Classical Antiquity, through the military turning points and detours of the Fourth Crusade, the Thirty Years’ War, Revolutionary and Napoleonic France, the First and Second World Wars, and then onwards to the ongoing contemporary conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, the history of art crime in times of war contains myriad fascinating and often little-known stories of the fate of humankind’s greatest works of art.
Plundering Beauty: A History of Art Crime during War charts the crucial milestones of art crimes spanning two thousand years. The works of art involved have fascinating stories to tell, as civilisation moves from a simple and brutal 'winner takes it all' attitude to the spoils of war, to contemporary understanding, and commitment to, the idea that our artistic heritage truly belongs to all humankind.