Sunday, June 21, 2009

The Lost Chalice by Vernon Silver

Flap description from ARC:
"Spanning 2,500 years and moving from a Trojan War battlefield to an Athens pottery workshop to an Italian crypt, and involving tomb robbers, smuggles, a Hollywood producer, and a Texas billionaire, The Lost Chalice is a real life adventure story involving the search for an ancient masterpiece missing for more than a decade. Created by Euphronios, an artist renowned as the Leonardo da Vinci of ancient Greece, the chalice disappeared in 1990 after an anonymous European dealer outbid the Metropolitan Museum of Art in an auction at Sotheby's.

The Lost Chalice uses a high-profile crime to open a window onto Italian history, culture, and life. THe cup's tale mirrors the life story of a mysterious contemporary dealer who made a fortune trading in antiquities- including the chalice- supplying the world's greatest museums and rich collectors with artifacts from archaeological sites. The Maserati-driving art dealer holds the key to finding and saving the lost cup, but the discovery of the chalice's fate reveals another riddle- and an even greater missing treasure."

This book tracking the discovery, purchase, loss and rediscovery of ancient Greece vases through the murky world of tomb robbers and black-market art dealers paints a facinating picture of the modern world of museum acquisition. This book is a wonderful and engaging detective story, one that traces the journey of the famous Euphronios krater from its theft from an underground tomb in the Italian countryside to a permanent display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NY.

For anyone interested in archaeology, antiquities, or the underground world of museum acquisition, this book is a must read. The writing is crisp and the author's curiosity about the subject matter shines through and helps to draw in readers unfamiliar with the case. The book is non-fiction, but is as easy to read and understand as any novel- the uninitiated will find nothing to scare them off in this narrative. Highly recommended!

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