The Vanishing Velázquez

  • by Laura Cumming
  • Narrated by Siobhan Redmond
  • 10 hrs and 15 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

From one of the world's most expert art critics, the incredible true story - part art history and part mystery - of a Velázquez portrait that went missing and the obsessed 19th-century bookseller determined to prove he had found it.
When John Snare, a 19th-century provincial bookseller, traveled to a liquidation auction, he stumbled on a vivid portrait of King Charles I that defied any explanation. The Charles of the painting was young - too young to be king - and yet also too young to be painted by the Flemish painter to which the work was attributed. Snare had found something incredible - but what?
His research brought him to Diego Velázquez, whose long-lost portrait of Prince Charles has eluded art experts for generations. Velázquez (1599-1660) was the official painter of the Madrid court during the time the Spanish Empire teetered on the edge of collapse. When Prince Charles of England - a man wealthy enough to help turn Spain's fortunes - ventured to the court to propose a marriage with a Spanish princess, he allowed just a few hours to sit for his portrait. Snare believed only Velázquez could have met this challenge. But in making his theory public, Snare was ostracized, victim to aristocrats and critics who accused him of fraud, and forced to choose, like Velázquez himself, between art and family.
A thrilling investigation into the complex meaning of authenticity and the unshakable determination that drives both artists and collectors of their work, The Vanishing Velázquez travels from extravagant Spanish courts in the 1700s to the gritty courtrooms and auction houses of 19th-century London and New York. But it is above all a tale of mystery and detection, of tragic mishaps and mistaken identities, of class, politics, snobbery, crime, and almost farcical accident. It is a magnificently crafted pause resister, a testimony to how and why great works of art can affect us to the point of obsession.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

A fascinating study of art history

I have to admit that, at first, I was only a little intrigued by this book. I also found the narrators accent somewhat difficult in the beginning. But before long I found myself deeply drawn into the mystery, the cultural surroundings of the artist and the collector, the beautiful, almost poetic, discussions of the artists style, the historical perspective, the writing, and the unique lilt of the narrators speech pattern which, as I progressed through the book I found I enjoyed more and more. This book delves into many layers of obsessions and art, how those intertwine, and have been perceived across time. I found the writing illuminating, passionate, and extremely well researched, as well as thought provoking, and lovingly crafted. Of course seeing anything as a masterpiece is purely in the eye of the beholder, and frankly, I am still coming to grips with my personal felling a about Velazquez, but I have a new perspective on him and his works, thanks to Laura Cumming and Siobhan Redmond, who have very masterfully brought him and this enchanting story to my attention.

The story of Mr. Snare and his obsession with this one painting is most skillfully presented, well highlighting the enormous difficulty in really defining such a seemingly illusory yet real character.

I enjoyed this book a lot.
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- Ron

I could not get past the narrator's voice.

Would you try another book from Laura Cumming and/or Siobhan Redmond?

Laura Cumming - yes, Siobhan Redmond - no


Would you be willing to try another book from Laura Cumming? Why or why not?

yes, I have the Kindle edition and find the subject matter interesting.


What didn’t you like about Siobhan Redmond’s performance?

I found her accent and cadence to be grating.


Any additional comments?

I will read the book on Kindle but won't listen to it on Audible.

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- Brukz

Book Details

  • Release Date: 04-12-2016
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio