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How the Monuments Men Rescued Italy’s Art from the Nazis

Evening Lecture

Tuesday, November 19, 2013 - 6:45 p.m.
Code: 1H0917

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In August 1943, on the eve of the Allied invasion of Italy, bombs threatened Michelangelo's David and nearly destroyed da Vinci's Last Supper. The race to save Italy’s masterpieces was on. Two members of the U.S. Army’s Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives program—Deane Keller, a portraitist and Yale art professor, and Fred Hartt, a scholar at the university’s art gallery—joined frontline troops to work against time to discover the location of priceless artworks snatched by the Nazis from the great museums of Florence and Naples. With the whereabouts of the art unknown to the Allies, a heretofore obscure SS general held the works hostage while negotiating a secret Nazi surrender with American spies.

Robert M. Edsel talks about the story of art, war, and high adventure that inspired his new book Saving Italy: The Race to Rescue a Nation's Treasures from the Nazis, (Norton). Edsel’s previous work, The Monuments Men, has been adapted into a film directed by and starring George Clooney and set for release in December.

Edsel’s book is available for sale and signing.

Other Connections

See a brief documentary on the wartime exploits of the Monuments Men.

Watch the trailer for the upcoming film version of Edsel’s book.

View archived Monuments Men documents from the Smithsonian's Archives of American Art.


National Museum of Natural History
Baird Auditorium
10th & Constitution Avenue, NW
Metro: Federal Triangle or Smithsonian