The Tsarina’s Lost Treasure: Catherine the Great, a Golden Age Masterpiece, and a Legendary Shipwreck

Gerald Easter and Mara Vorhees. Pegasus, $29.95 (400p) ISBN 978-1-64313-556-4
In this wide-ranging and meticulously researched history, Russia scholar Easter (Capital, Coercion and Post-Communist States) and travel writer Vorhees recount the story of the Vrouw Maria, a Dutch merchant ship carrying more than a dozen paintings to Russian empress Catherine the Great that sank off the coast of Finland, in the Archipelago Sea, in 1771. Among the cargo was the most “coveted artwork produced during the Dutch Golden Age”: the oak-panel triptych The Nursery by Gerrit Dou. Easter and Vorhees recount the career of Dou, a student of Rembrandt’s who eclipsed his teacher in popularity and success during his lifetime. They also sketch Catherine’s rise to the Russian throne; note other famous wrecks discovered in this area; and document years of legal, bureaucratic, and diplomatic wrangling after the Vrouw Maria was discovered in June 1999. Currently, the Finnish National Board of Antiquities, pursuing a model of “in situ preservation,” has no plans to raise the ship or determine the condition of its cargo. Easter and Vorhees braid the various threads of the story into a coherent whole and make a persuasive case for attempting to salvage the ship and its “incomparable cultural relics.” Readers will covet this intriguing portrait of an art world mystery. (Sept.)
Reviewed on : 06/23/2020
Release date: 09/01/2020
Genre: Nonfiction
Hardcover - 978-1-64313-557-1
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