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The Venus Fixers: The Remarkable Story of the Allied Monuments Officers Who Saved Italy's Art During World War II
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The Venus Fixers: The Remarkable Story of the Allied Monuments Officers Who Saved Italy's Art During World War II

3.74 of 5 stars 3.74  ·  rating details  ·  214 ratings  ·  40 reviews
In 1943, while the world was convulsed by war, a few visionaries—in the private sector and in the military—committed to protect Europe's cultural heritage from the indiscriminate ravages of battle.

And so the Allies appointed the Monuments Officers, a motley group of art historians, curators, architects, and artists, to ensure that the masterpieces of European art and archi
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Paperback, 336 pages
Published June 22nd 2010 by Picador (first published August 4th 2009)
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Kevin
Late last year I read The Monuments Men, by Robert Edsel and Brett Witter, that told the story of how the men assigned to the Subcommission for Monuments, Fine Art and Archives protected and rescued the great art treasures of Europe. The Monuments Men focused on the creation of the MFAA and the MFAA activities in France and Germany and was an excellent book that should appeal to anyone with an interest in military history or art. Unfortunately for Ms. Brey, I read The Monuments Men before I read ...more
Michael Gerald Dealino
"Art imitates nature as it can, as a pupil follows his master; this it is a sort of grandchild of God." - Dante Alighieri

A great complement to the book, "The Monuments Men" by Robert Edsel, "The Venus Fixers" reveals how in the conflagration and savagery of the Second World War, the Americans and the British endeavored to salvage damaged works of art, architecture, and archives and prevent the destruction of others, mostly in Europe. Sadly, the destruction was not only due to the depravity of th
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Kathleen
I've been doing my own little "unit study" on how art was protected during World War II.

This book covers a lot of the same ground as Robert Edsel's Saving Italy. It came out earlier and is better written and researched. What I also appreciate about Ilaria Dagnini Brey's book is that it gives more context regarding the art.
Sheramy Bundrick
Anyone interested in Italian art should read this book. A real eye-opener.
Lisa
An illuminating history of a little known aspect of WWII in Italy- the Allied effort to preserve and restore as much as they could of Italy's cultural heritage.

General Clark compared the Allied campaign in Italy to having a war "in a goddamn art museum". With its rich cultural heritage, Italy stood to lose irreplaceable art and buildings as the Allies fought the Germans in Sicily and on the peninsula. Fortunately, the Allies realized this early in the war and began planning on how not to inflic
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Lianne
This is a combination of a historical work about World War II in Italy, a detective story and a suspense novel. It tells the story of the Monuments Officers in the Allied Forces who tried to save and restore Italian art. The popular novel "The English Patient" was set in Monte Cassino, one of the tragic recipients of Allied Bombing. The clashes in style and personality between individuals who served in this capacity are developed. The detective aspect is the way that they worked to find out wher ...more
Angie
The Venus Fixers is the story of the monuments men in Italy. If you have read and enjoyed The Monuments Men by Robert Edsel then you will probably enjoy this one. Whereas The Monuments Men was very much the story of the the looted artwork from France and the treasure hunt to find it, this is the story of how the Venus Fixers were on the front lines trying to save monuments and art as soon as they are destroyed. It is the story of Florence and the terrible price that city paid during WWII. It is ...more
Cardyn Brooks
This tale of real-life intrigue blends military drama, human ingenuity, comedy of errors, and divine intervention. The Venus Fixers is beautifully written and reads like a rigorously researched novel. Readers who aren't familiar with the street grid for Florence, Italy and the Tuscany region may find much of the detail tedious and confusing. [A city map of Florence would have been helpful.]

Reading the Venus Fixers makes me excited to read The Monuments Men to compare the same story as told from
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Lindasp
What a fantastic book! I learned so much about the Italian aspect of WWII that I didn't know as I've always focused on the war in Western Europe. I've been to Italy 4 times and visited and enjoyed so many of the monuments, museums, etc. in Rome, Florence and Pisa but never considered what happened to these places during the war.
Warren Kaplan
Ilaria Dagnini Brey has written a wonderfully researched book about the heroic efforts of relatively few people that most of us never knew about. Those few who risked so much to save and preserve the brilliance of human civilization's beauty and creativity from the utter brutality of that same civilization playing out in the form of World War II in Italy. Centuries of priceless art (both financially and spirtually) were taken from museums and hidden before the Nazi hoardes either destroyed it or ...more
Karlan
Those who read or saw the film Monuments Men would want to read about the work done to protect Italian art during WWII. It is tragic that so much was destroyed but miraculous that much was saved. The book was more detailed than I wished but still fascinating.
Janine
a very dense book with lots of detail about the personalities and skills of each member of the Venus Fixer crew. anyone who appreciates the intricacies of truly beautiful masterworks will enjoy reading about the knowledge, passion, and dedication to preservation that these individuals possessed. despite the difficulty i had getting through some of the detail (it's not a story; it's more of a report), i did find myself at times gasping and almost crying when i tried to imagine some of the situati ...more
Jojo Clemente


This is a very interesting account of how a determined group of scholar-soldiers pulled from different walks of life were called on to preserve and rebuild works of art affected during World War II.

This is also a study of how precarious the balance is between culture and warfare and how humanity perseveres through adverse periods.

One can get bogged down with the immense number of personalities and locales covered but what shines through are the stories of how priceless works of art and archit
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Judi
Unfortunately, I saw and read The Monuments Men before I read The Venus Fixers. I just could not make it through more than half of The Venus Fixers. It's plods along so that I just couldn't stay interested. I was really disappointed, because I was really looking forward to reading about "the different war" they had to fight in Italy that they all kept referring to in The Monuments Men and in write ups. I couldn't believe a writer could so drab it down as to be boring, but apparently I was wrong. ...more
Niki
An aspect of WWII that I had never before considered. Very interesting.
Chad Fairey
A fantastic read. Delightfully dense and technical, this is really a case study of how passion and mission can converge to serve something that reaches across time and the tapestry of human experience. Destruction of art is a largely overlooked -- and often deemed strategically inconsequential -- part of warfare; this case study highlights a remarkable effort to prevent human treasures from becoming another set of casualties. A technical book rife with very engaging detail, this is expertly-craf ...more
Beth Sattes
I learned so much from this book...I had no idea that a special detail of soldiers from US and Great Britain were sent to Europe to preserve the great works of art. Unfortunately, it was a very difficult read; that is, it was technical. I kept plodding, though, because I found what they accomplished was remarkable. having been to florence, it's hard to imagine that beautiful bridge having been blown up, the big bronze doors moved into the country side, and all of the art from the Uffizi moved ou ...more
Donata144
Jul 23, 2014 Donata144 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
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Andrew
This is an interesting book. It was a bit dense and slow for my tastes, none-the-less worth reading. I would particularly recommend it for folks with both an abiding interest in european art and WWII history. Otherwise, it falls into that area of a book that is worth reading but not going out of your way to read. Oh, with one exception, if you are planning a tour of Italy, and have sufficient time for some reasonably arduous advance reading, it might as some interesting detail to your trip.
Margaret Sankey
At the urging of academics, the US and British armies attached archeologists and scholars to the invasion of Italy in order to catalog, locate and attempt to safeguard the art and historical resources scattered and damaged by the war (or as their leader bastardized from a classical epigram, "saving art at the lowest possible expense"). If there's anything I like more than finding Vermeers in Nazi salt mines, it is art historians with firearms.
Kate
I just couldn't make it through this book. I read the first third word-for-word, then tried to skim to the end. I couldn't even do that. Brey is a journalist who has the misfortune of writing like one: her failure to adjust her writing style to fit a longer format renders a potentially fascinating topic dry, dull, and dreary. I'm actually a bit angry about that, because I think the Venus Fixers deserve better. What a disappointment.
Denali
A neat combination of adventure story, tactical history, case study in bureaucracy and love letter to art & monuments. I didn't know about much of the preservation efforts of WWII and was fascinated to learn about them. The chapters don't always fit together as well as they could, which detracts from the grand scale this story deserves, but the book is well researched, well written, and made me genuinely excited about art.
Ruth Feathers
The amazing thing is how much they were able to save.
Armann
Art has the power to bring such diverse people together. Italians working with Americans and Brits during World War II to safeguard Italy's art treasures. A different historical perspective of World War II. Wish it included images of all the artwork, churches, and bridges referenced! Have been going online for visuals.
Brynna
This is a lovely book. I don't read a lot of nonfiction, but this was incredibly easy to enjoy. Beautifully written, carefully researched and a great story. Every time I think about the monuments men, I am shocked that it actually happened.
If I ever get the chance to go to Florence, I'm taking this book.
Patrick
There is some interesting material in here, but it reads a bit like a PhD thesis - an endless litany of placenames, artworks, people, etc. I wish I could have read one of those longish New Yorker articles about this instead. I did manage to finish this, but only just.
Jor-dahn
An excellent read. The cost of war and the consequence of ideas - to humanity and the history which grounds our civilization - are thoughtfully addressed. Brey has a great voice and does a great job combining individual stories to the big picture history.
Beth
A page-turner that manages to be informative about both Italian art and the World War II battles in Italy without being a dry list of facts. The question of what art survives and how creates a nice sense of urgency throughout the book.
Julie
For those that love Italian art, WWII, and the underdog this is a super non-fiction pick. Brey gives us a peak at the faces that shaped and saved what was left after the Germans' plundered and the Allies thundered.
Ed
The book was o.k. About an interesting chapter in WWII history of the Allies trying to save some of Europe's treasures from destruction or Nazi plunder. Well documentd, but a very dry read.
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Art Crime: The Venus Fixers 3 7 Jan 04, 2014 11:02AM  
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