The Vanishing Velazquez: A 19th Century Bookseller’s Obsession with a Lost Masterpiece
Much of history is reminiscent of a partially solved mystery; some details like identities, locations, and the chain of events are known to you, but others, the connective tissue that binds the elements together, are missing. This proves doubly true of art history, where mistaken identity, forgery, and differing expert opinions run rampant.
The Vanishing Velazquez highlights the weird nebulous world of art analysis and criticism while delivering an impressive mystery tale about the identity of a painting, its creator, and the life of the man who helped bring a missing masterpiece to light.
Cumming accomplishes a lot in less than three hundred pages, not only providing a timeline of the mystery itself and the life of Velazquez, but building a profile of Velazquez as an artist and helping the reader to understand his work (both through modern eyes and in the time of the intrepid John Snare, the virtual unknown who championed the Velazquez painting that serves as the centerpiece of the narrative).
And the true highlight of the book? The introduction, a magnificent, heartfelt paean to the immensely personal, transformative nature of art, and how a piece can speak to you in a vulnerable moment.