Cover Image: The Tsarina's Lost Treasure

The Tsarina's Lost Treasure

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Member Reviews

A very in-depth look at the worlds of art, royalty, ship salvaging, and how they all fit together to tell one tale spanning centuries. I'm impressed with the level of research that was done to provide so much information on every facet of this book, going not just into the events but also into the lives of the people involved. This is an excellent book that i would recommend to anyone who is at all interested in history. I learned so much about topics I never would have thought to look into.
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Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC]

This book presents a fascinating overview of a number of topics: the art of the Renaissance, the Russian empire’s eminence in Europe, Catherine the Great’s rise to power, the history of art dealership, the process of rescuing a shipwreck, and more.

I think my favorite part – along with the description and intrigue of the Russian court – was the introduction I received to Gerrit Dou’s work. Though I was somewhat familiar with the Dutch masters’ art, I had not heard or read about Dou before. After researching his work, “Sleeping Dog” has become one of my all time favorite paintings. The level of detail is exquisite. His talent was truly immense – surpassing even his teacher Rembrandt, in my opinion.

In short, this is an enthralling, well-written read for fans of art, history, or anyone looking for a story that will keep them hooked.
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This is an extremely detailed history of the old Dutch Masters. The writers have documented every home owned, every student taught, every art show mounted, every brush used by these artists. The other half of the book is a detailed history of Russian imperial court, palace intrigues, and Catherine the Great. It’s interesting but dense, so be prepared.
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I love art history and royalty so naturally this book sounded perfect for me, and I couldn’t put it down.

The story spans from the 1600s up to the present day, and I love a good multi-timeline story! I really enjoyed learning about Dutch art history, noble/royal family backgrounds and alliances. It was nice to have alternating chapters on these subjects for the first half of the book! Provides nice background to better understand the importance of the ship and it’s treasures as well as the characters involved.

The second half then focuses on salvage technology, history of wreck hunting, and some other shipwrecks in the same region as the Vrouw Maria. I didn’t enjoy the second half of the book as much. The chapters in this section could be a bit dry at times, specifically with what seemed like unimportant background info on the divers lives. Those sections didn’t really relate to how they got into diving and their experiences (ie Rauno and his boxing past and trip to Russia). I just found this sort of detailing unnecessary and like it could’ve saved some pages.

I had no idea how dramatic and intense shipwreck salvaging was between marine archaeologists/museums and wreck hunters! It was crazy and I didn’t expect to enjoy that section so much. The authors also talk about maritime law and the field of marine archaeology which could be dry at times but it was necessary for the story and it helped me learn something new. if that wasn’t enough drama and complication about the ships history, add in political dynamics and things are bound to “rock the boat” 

Of course the art history sections were fantastic for me! The book looked at how art evolved in Europe, and how in the 19th and 20th centuries America started affecting the art world. They mention the erasure of Gerrit Dou as a Dutch Golden Age master, which makes sense as he was highly valued up until the 19th/20th centuries when other artists of the time (Rembrandt and Vermeer) became more internationally recognized. Even now my Dutch husband hadn’t heard of Dou, although he’s not much of an art lover anyways.

Highly recommend this book if you enjoy art history, maritime adventures, political dynamics, or royalty-centered stories-this book will have something for you!
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This is the best type of historical novel in my eyes - a true story told as a narrative. I really enjoyed the way the story unfolded. The action was engrossing, and I learned an incredible amount along the way. 

I will be recommending this novel to my students for those who want action and adventure, as well as those who enjoy historical fiction. I will be buying a copy for my classroom library and hoping it doesn't disappear, as all the good books seem to!
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My review of this book appeared in Ricochet.com on 14 February 2021.  It can be seen at 

https://ricochet.com/893987/a-multi-level-treasure-hunt/
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What a fascinating book! As suspenseful and compelling as any thriller, it’s the story of the Vrouw Maria, a merchant ship which left Amsterdam in October 1771 with a consignment of Dutch masterpieces destined for Catherine the great of Russia. Sadly the ship sank into the Baltic Sea near the coast of Finland and there it has remained, visible, accessible but contentiously not salvaged. The ship and its precious cargo has become a legend and the rights to it fiercely contested. Meticulously researched, the book weaves together the story of the wreck with an overview of the history and art of the era, the life of Catherine and her passion for collecting art, the legal battles arising from attempts to salvage the Vrouw Maria, a dissection of the arguments about who actually now owns the cargo, an examination of whether the precious art works could have survived, and so much more. A really exciting, interesting and multi-layered read.
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A real triumph of narrative history.  This has everything,  sunken treasure boats, a lost painter whose paintings rivalled Rembrandt and Vermeer in their power to beguile, a lesson in geo cultural warfare and the tale of a little German girl who would become an Empress.
Everyone should read it
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I love nonfiction books it seem like fiction.  This book is a non-fiction narrative but it definitely reads like a fictional adventure novel.  I highly recommend this read.
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344 pages

5 stars

October 1771 the Vrouw Maria sailed with a very valuable and hidden cargo on board. She was headed for Russia to the Imperial Court of Catherine the Great. Among the twelve Dutch masterpieces aboard were Gerrit Dou's “The Nursery.” Dou was perhaps the most famous and most talented student of Rembrandt. 

The Vrouw Maria ran aground in a bad storm off of Sweden and sank. Alas the hidden paintings were lost with the ship. 

The book flashes back to Dou and Rembrandt's time and the reader gets a primer in the art of painting. There are numerous little tidbits of information discussed that are very interesting. 

Sophie from Zerbst in then Prussia was just fifteen-years old. Her father was the affable Prince Christian and her mother was Princess Johanna who was an uncaring busybody. Sophie and her mother made the nine hundred mile overland trip to Moscow for Sophie to meet her betrothed, Grand Duke Peter. She accepted conversion to the Russian Orthodox Church and chose the name of Catherine.

The book gives brief highlights of Gerrit and Catherine's lives. It also discusses the atmosphere and politics of the times periods, even the revolutionary efforts of sea salvaging in those early days of 1771. I had no idea of those early efforts. I was impressed and fascinated. The history and changing attitudes in the world of art is also covered at length. After having gone online and viewed some of Gerrit Douw's works, I was especially incensed at how the world of art history had treated him. 

The book discusses the search for the ship in modern times and its being found. Heated arguments broke out among explorers and divers about the rights to the ship and its treasure. 

This book is very good, especially for those who are interested in art, diving, Russian history or shipwrecks. It is very well written and easy to follow and enjoyable to read. It is loaded with interesting and enticing tidbits. I was let down at the ending, but it was always supposed to be thus. We can't get what we want all of the time...but since it combined three of my greatest interests: diving, Russia and lost art, it was truly a winner for me.

I want to thank NetGalley and Pegasus Books for forwarding to me a copy of this great book for me to read, enjoy and review.
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