Plunder: Napoleon’s Theft of Veronese’s Feast, will be published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux on May 11, 2021. It tells the history of Napoleon’s looting of Europe’s art through the story of The Wedding Feast at Cana, a Renaissance masterpiece painted in 1563 by Paolo Veronese in Venice and seized by the French in 1797 for the Louvre.
"'Taking without taste, without choice, is ignorance and near vandalism,' Napoleon’s advisers reminded him. He had no such intention. For a Venetian war trophy he set his sights on Veronese’s masterpiece, which was then ‘liberated’ from a damp wall in 1797, wrapped around a cylinder, and shipped in a crate to the Louvre, where—half its lifetime later—it still hangs today. Cynthia Saltzman offers up a rich, thrilling master class on the art of power and the power of art, contemplating triumphs of both kinds, as well as the fate of glory when pinned to a wall."
—STACY SCHIFF, author of The Witches and Cleopatra
"By recounting the long, strange journey of this painting through unsuspected wars, bloodshed, perilous seas, and finally, its close escape from Nazi hands, Saltzman makes one appreciate the beauty of The Wedding Feast at Cana anew. That it still exists is a miracle all by itself. I hope she will keep on looking for new miracles."
—MERYLE SECREST, The American Scholar
“An engrossing, tumultuous history of a Renaissance painting.”
“Veronese’s Wedding Feast at Cana is at the center of this artful, deeply researched, and sumptuous account of Napoleon’s plunder of European art. Cynthia Saltzman uses her story to bring to vivid life a large and colorful cast of characters, ranging from ambitious artists to plotting diplomats. This book is a feast all its own.”
—MARK STEVENS, coauthor with Annalyn Swan of De Kooning: An American Master and Francis Bacon: Revelations
“Meticulously investigated, Cynthia Saltzman’s Plunder is an epic account, as grand as the painting that is at the heart of this tragic story.”
—XAVIER F. SALOMON, Deputy Director and Peter Jay Sharp Chief Curator at the Frick Collection
“Cynthia Saltzman guides us on a fascinating journey from sixteenth-century Venice to Napoleonic France, telling a story as spellbinding—and as peopled with vibrant characters— as Veronese’s canvas itself. Plunder shows how even the greatest masterpieces can fall victim to power politics, personal ambition, and the grim vicissitudes of history.”
—ROSS KING, author of Mad Enchantment, The Judgment of Paris, and Brunelleschi’s Dome
“With evocative prose, Cynthia Saltzman traces the journey of one of the greatest of all Italian paintings—Paolo Veronese’s Wedding Feast at Cana—from the refectory of a monastery in Venice to Paris, where it faces the Mona Lisa in the busiest room of the Louvre. This lively account offers valuable perspective to all who care about the world’s artistic treasures and our responsibility to preserve them for future generations.”
—FREDERICK ILCHMAN, Chair of the Art of Europe at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and Chairman of Save Venice
“There are many extraordinary personages in the pages of Cynthia Saltzman’s Plunder, but the
most complicated and involving characters are the paintings Saltzman describes and gives life to, especially Veronese’s Wedding Feast at Cana, which helped to establish the Louvre as the world’s greatest art museum. Saltzman’s chronicle of the painting’s creation and its fate is deeply absorbing and—in its discussion of the ethics of art appropriation—sharply provocative, and her analysis of the way art and politics are interwoven in national identity is both timely and timeless.”