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PHC Book Club
Tuesday, February 14, 2023, 07:00pm
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What the Ermine Saw:
The Extraordinary Journey of Leonardo da Vinci's Most Mysterious Portrait

by Eden Collinsworth

From the NYT review: "Eden Collinsworth’s fourth book ... traces the tumultuous history of Leonardo’s painting, from Sforza’s Renaissance court to Enlightenment-era Poland to the portrait’s theft by Nazi looters during the Second World War."

From the Publishers Weekly: "Tracking the painting across five centuries, Collinsworth reveals that the portrait’s subject was most likely Cecelia Gallerani, the mistress of Ludovico Sforza, the Duke of Milan."

From the NYT review: "Gallerani was not only a beauty but also a talented poet, scholar and composer, a true Renaissance woman who beguiled the fierce Ludovico Sforza, Duke of Milan. The ermine — added by Leonardo in the second of three stages of this painting — is an allusion to Sforza, who was nicknamed “White Ermine”; it rests tame but potent in Gallerani’s hands, strangely erotic for a weasel" .... “Lady With an Ermine” disappeared for more than two centuries after Gallerani’s death, only to re-emerge around 1800, when the Polish Prince Adam Jerzy Czartoryski purchased it on a tour of Napoleonic Italy; he gave the portrait to his mother, Princess Izabela Dorota Czartoryska."

From the Kirkus Review: "Collinsworth meticulously charts the painting’s circuitous path throughout Europe during political unrest and two world wars to a German governor-general who was busy creating “a systematic campaign to eradicate Polish culture.” Finally transferred to the National Museum in Kraków, the painting has since been exhibited around the world."


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