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Extended Audio Sample The Vanishing Velázquez: A 19th Century Booksellers Obsession with a Lost Masterpiece, by Laura Cumming Click for printable size audiobook cover
0 out of 50 out of 50 out of 50 out of 50 out of 5 0.00 (0 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Laura Cumming Narrator: Siobhan Redmond Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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From one of the world’s most expert art critics, the incredible true story—part art history and part mystery—of a Velazquez portrait that went missing and the obsessed nineteenth-century bookseller determined to prove he had found it.

When John Snare, a nineteenth-century provincial bookseller, traveled to a liquidation auction, he stumbled on a vivid portrait of King Charles I that defied any explanation. The Charles of the painting was young—too young to be king—and yet also too young to be painted by the Flemish painter to which the work was attributed. Snare had found something incredible—but what?

His research brought him to Diego Velázquez, whose long-lost portrait of Prince Charles has eluded art experts for generations. Velázquez (1599–1660) was the official painter of the Madrid court, during the time the Spanish Empire teetered on the edge of collapse. When Prince Charles of England—a man wealthy enough to help turn Spain’s fortunes—ventured to the court to propose a marriage with a Spanish princess, he allowed just a few hours to sit for his portrait. Snare believed only Velázquez could have met this challenge. But in making his theory public, Snare was ostracized, victim to aristocrats and critics who accused him of fraud, and forced to choose, like Velázquez himself, between art and family.

A thrilling investigation into the complex meaning of authenticity and the unshakable determination that drives both artists and collectors of their work, The Vanishing Velázquez travels from extravagant Spanish courts in the 1700s to the gritty courtrooms and auction houses of nineteenth-century London and New York. But it is above all a tale of mystery and detection, of tragic mishaps and mistaken identities, of class, politics, snobbery, crime, and almost farcical accident. It is a magnificently crafted page-turner, a testimony to how and why great works of art can affect us to the point of obsession.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “As compelling and entertaining as a detective novel…Ms. Cumming paints a beguiling picture of lives lived for art.”

    Economist (London)

  • “The book is a pair of biographies, a series of critical essays, a history of King Philip’s IV court, a cold-case mystery, a courtroom drama, an adventure story, a travelogue, a floor wax, a dessert topping…a gleaming work of someone at the peak of her craft.”

    New York Times

  • “A narrative that is equal parts criticism, detective story, and pure enchantment.”

    Minneapolis Star-Tribune

  • “An exceptionally layered piece, blending history, criticism, and biography. Cumming’s writing is lush, succinct, and captures the essence of art in a medium that depends on the imagination of the reader.”

    Chicago Review of Books

  • “Cumming has brought Velázquez and his work to life in a stunningly vivid way. The master painter might have been impressed.”

    Santa Fe New Mexican

  • “Siobhan Redmond is a narrator of considerable subtlety and expressiveness, and a fine complement to Laura Cumming’s own considerable powers of description and evocation…Winner of the AudioFile Earphones Award.”

    AudioFile

  • “Hapless Victorians, bizarro royal courts, and incisive art criticism all feature prominently in Cumming’s lively account…Utterly engrossing.”

    Publishers Weekly (starred review)

  • “A true tale that demonstrates the power and seduction of art. Gracefully melding art history and biography…Cumming has fashioned an absorbing mystery.”

    Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

  • Winner of an AudioFile Earphones Award
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