Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Saving Mona Lisa

A recent edition of Smithsonian Magazine featured an article on the soldiers called the Monument Men who were charged with the task of finding and cataloguing works of art that had been lost or stolen during World War II. It’s a fascinating story of dedication and team work that saved some of Western Civilizations greatest cultural treasures.

Smithsonian magazine article, complete with vintage photos:

From the website that has been established to celebrate the achievement:

The “Monuments Men” were a group of approximately 345 men and women from thirteen nations who comprised the Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives section during World War II. Many were museum directors, curators, art historians, and educators. Together they worked to protect monuments and other cultural treasures from the destruction of World War II. In the last year of the war, they tracked, located, and ultimately returned more than 5 million artistic and cultural items stolen by Hitler and the Nazis. Their role in preserving cultural treasures was without precedent.

The Monuments Men remained in Europe for up to six years following the conclusion of fighting to oversee the complicated restitution of stolen works of art. During that time they played instrumental roles in rebuilding cultural life in the devastated countries of Europe by organizing temporary art exhibitions and musical concerts. Art and culture mattered greatly then – today – to the Monuments Men.

The Monument Men Foundation:

President Bush awards 2007 National Humanities Medal:


Lady with an Ermine
Leonardo da Vinci, 1485
Oil on wood panel
54 × 39 cm

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