Sunday, March 31, 2013

The Resurrection Of The Romanovs Anastasia, Anna Anderson, And The World's Greatest Royal Mystery by Greg King and Penny Wilson

If you’re interested in the Anastasia/Anna Anderson saga, you might or might not want to read this book, depending on how you feel about it. If you love the fairy tale story of a princess, whose name ironically means “Resurrection,” who rose from the ashes of her family’s destruction, and like to believe in it despite the DNA evidence, be forewarned, this book is going to puncture your beautiful balloon.

This is one of those books that basically tells you everything you heard or believed before has been greatly exaggerated or is completely wrong. If you read the previous Anastasia biographies by Peter Kurth and James Blair Lovell, it’s really disillusioning in comparison. It will make you feel like anyone who ever believed this story was an idiot, so in love with the ideal of a surviving Romanov princess that they were willing to believe, overlook, or excuse anything.

On the other hand, if you’re interested in how a Polish factory worker named Franziska Schanzkowska emerged from a suicidal jump into an icy Berlin canal to become the greatest royal imposter of all time, this book is right up your alley and contains loads of new information about her that, as far as I know, hasn’t been published in a book before, and I try to read everything about Anastasia/Anna Anderson.

The book is well written and thoroughly engrossing, so readers shouldn’t feel like shooting the messengers because we don’t like what they tell us. 

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Girl In A Green Gown The History And Mystery Of The Arnolfini Portrait by Carola Hicks

Painted in 1434 by Jan van Eyck, it remains one of the best known and beloved paintings in the world. But what does it really mean? Is there a secret meaning encoded in this portrait of a prosperous merchant and his well dressed, possibly pregnant, wife? Is it a memorial to a beloved wife lost in childbirth? Or is it merely a status symbol showing off the luxury garb and goods this upper middle-class couple have acquired?

This book endeavors to answer all these questions, with chapters discussing the various elements that make up the portrait like the fine clothes, furniture, the dog, prayer beads, and oranges. It also traces the history of the portrait from creation down through the hands of its various owners.

This is a fascinating book about a portrait that has always intrigued me. Sadly the author died of a cerebral hemorrhage just after finishing the first draft of this book. Her husband lovingly put the finishing touches on it for her. I am so sorry that there will be no more books from this talented author who made art history enjoyable and accessible to ordinary readers like me.