The Secrets of Art

Uncovering the mysteries and messages of great works of art

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Pub Date 21 Sep 2021 | Archive Date 21 Sep 2021

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Discover the secrets, mysteries, hidden meanings and stories behind famous works of art.

A book full of surprises, discoveries, forgotten treasures and lost tales, The Secrets of Art takes us on a journey through the art world’s mysteries to reveal that works of art are not always what they seem.
A long-lost medieval masterpiece unearthed in the Tower of London. A secret message that only an elite few can read encoded in a painting. A glimpse of a ghostly image beneath the surface of a portrait. The intriguing stories of these works, and many more, are brought to life by author, historian and art detective Debra N. Mancoff, as she reveals secret symbols used by Leonardo da Vinci, Vermeer and Caravaggio, uncovers layers of meaning in paintings by Van Gogh, Picasso and Dali, and provides insight into works by Frida Kahlo, Kara Walker and Marina Abramović.
Drawing upon the findings of advanced technology, new research, scientific analysis and old-fashioned curiosity, The Secrets of Art unveils the layers of meaning beneath the surfaces of great works of art in a collection of tales that are fully based in fact but are as fascinating as fiction.
Discover the secrets, mysteries, hidden meanings and stories behind famous works of art.

A book full of surprises, discoveries, forgotten treasures and lost tales, The Secrets of Art takes us on a...

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ISBN 9780711248748
PRICE US$30.00 (USD)

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Average rating from 19 members

Featured Reviews

This is absolutely stunning and fascinating! Even someone like me, a casual art aficionado, can spend a few mesmerized hours poring over the gorgeous, varied images and learning about the stories and secrets hidden within in captivating detail. The art is beautifully rendered, both in wide scope and in closer foci, highlighting critical details. The range is superb too--classics, photography, fashion, street art, and even installations are all represented. I appreciated exploring such a huge range of artists, from Caravaggio to ODB! This would make a wonderful addition to libraries, but also a great gift for almost anyone, even if they're not particular art fans. It's interesting and accessible enough to appeal to everyone and I can't wait to get my own copy! Many thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review!

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Thank you to the publisher and to NetGalley for the digital ARC, this is my honest review. This is a comprehensive and incredibly detailed book focusing on a wide range of artworks- from Da Vinci to Banksy- as well as photography and sculpture. The layout of the book allowed for greater study and brought focus to tiny aspects of paintings that wouldn't always be immediately obvious; the explanations on each artwork are accessible and don't assume that the reader is an expert. My favourite aspect of this book is how the author brings more context into certain aspects in each chapter- such as clothing and fashion, the destruction of artwork or sculpture over time and censorship- by focusing on specific artworks (such as those by Caravaggio and Kehinde Wiley). This book covers creativity from a diverse range of individuals and emphasises the histories behind paintings and sculpture. I'd recommend this book to anyone, even people who aren't fans of art, as it is clear and concise in the information it's giving. This book is an excellent starting point for someone to learn more about art or for an individual who is already passionate about it.

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Wow! The Secrets of Art is a fun and interactive book for art lovers of all ages. A simple, beautiful, and easy to understand guide to the hidden aspects of some of the most famous pieces of art while wrapped up in a beautifully presented book.

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I’ve been to a few of the galleries and museums that display the 45 paintings or other types of masterpieces featured in this book. To think that I might have walked past without appreciating the secrets or stories that each of them hold! What a well-written and fascinating book this is! I think it has changed forever the way that I’ll look at any major works of art. I loved the cropped and zoomed-in photos that focus on points of interest. Bravo, well done! Anyone with even just a passing interest in art will be intrigued.

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Very interesting stories about classic and modern artwork releaves if not secrets, little known facts about them. Maybe something is missing, I did not find a word about Peter Greenaway's film and documentary on Rembrandt's Night watch wth the murder story. I'd have included also the marvelous Mystic Lamb of van Eyck (Ghent Altarpiece) with the stolen and still missing piece. On the other hand, I'd have preferred not to see Abramovic with her calculated for effect provocations, the Bansky trick, the erased Kooning, the defacing of Mona Lisa by Duchamp (IMHO the typical example of those modern artists that, unable to create anything of value, destroy and try to ridiculize masterworks of classical art. Well presented, richly illustrated.

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An interesting look at various works of art from the symbols, to works that had been altered (using modern techniques to see the underlying details), destroyed works, censorship and more. Medieval to modern works are covered.

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This is a thoroughly enjoyable beautiful book which will appeal to many an art enthousiast. The book takes you on a tour through the ages, from the middle ages to present day, discussing the secrets of artworks based on 8 individual themes. The author discusses for example what is hidden below the surface of a painting, what role censorship has played in the (de)construction of a work or the presence of secret symbols. The author doesn't restrict herself to just paintings but also discusses photography, sculpture and even performance art, from familiar artists like Van Eyck, Caravaggio, Dali and Banksy to lesser known (at least for yours truly) like Kehinde Wiley and Robert Rauschenberg. Each page brought a smile to my face as I read the accompanying text and then studied the close-ups on details, although after a while this did become slightly formulaic: I felt that some of the works should have deserved a longer consideration to fully appreciate the background. I was quite surprised to find that even some of the pictures I consider myself fairly familiar with, having seen them multiple times, still had secrets to be revealed. However, as the author started the introduction with a discussion of the history of Rembrandt's Night Watch, the one secret I was sure to be revealed wasn't even mentioned (spoiler alert: Rembrandt has included himself in the picture somewhere). Maybe this could be the starting point for The Secret of Art Part 2?

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Stunning little book uncovering the secrets behind some extremely well known works of art, along with introducing me to some I wasn't familiar with. It's packed full of fascinating stories and tidbits about how these works came to be. Whether it's alterations that happened along the way, new styles that were tried, accidents that turned into magic - there's all sorts that influeced these artworks, much of which was very unexpection. A really inventive and interetsting way to re-engage with familiar works with new eyes. It helps that the book itself is visually beautiful and will hold a lot to interest any art enthusiast.

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The Secrets of Art: Uncovering the Mysteries and Messages of Great Works of Art is a thoroughly engaging and comprehensive deep dive into the hidden side of some of the worlds most prominent artworks helping to expose the mysteries, messages and symbolism behind each of them. Debra N. Mancoff is an art historian and the author of more than twenty books on European and American art and culture; she also lectures regularly at many of the major museums in the United States and Great Britain. The book offers a fresh encounter with familiar works of art, revealing untold stories, hidden meanings and surprising revelations hidden beneath the surface. Discover the secrets, mysteries, hidden meanings and stories behind famous works of art. A book full of surprises, discoveries, forgotten treasures and lost tales, The Secrets of Art takes us on a journey through the art world's mysteries to reveal that works of art are not always what they seem. A long lost medieval masterpiece is found beneath a layer of lime wash in the Tower of London. A secret message that only an elite few can read is encoded in a painting. In a portrait, a duchess wears a gown that promotes her husband's policies and power in the guise of her style. The stories of these works, and many more, come to life in a richly informative and extensively researched book that takes us on a lively journey. Drawing upon the findings of new technology, archival research, scientific analysis and old-fashioned curiosity, Mancoff unveils the layers of meaning beneath the surfaces of well-known masterpieces in a collection of tales that are fully based in fact but are as fascinating, intriguing and engrossing as fiction. A book art lovers and casual admirers will both find appealing and, in my opinion, it is worth every penny of its purchase price. Highly recommended.

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The Secrets of Art by Debra N Mancoff is an informative and entertaining look at the various ways we have to better understand the story of a work of art, and thus increase our pleasure in looking at it. The introduction presents both the foundational reasons for this enquiry as well as the myriad ways in which archival research coupled with modern science and technology can unlock many of the mysteries we may not have even known existed. Mancoff does this through presenting these ideas in broad terms and then using The Night Watch as an example of how these questions are both raised and answered. Using this work as an example in the introduction works very well to introduce the book, well, maybe not so much for those who only want a bullet point outline of why the book is important or is even in existence. The works included range across time and style, with just enough information about each to give a reader unfamiliar with the work and/or its history a starting point for the revelations to come. Like any book that uses a number of works of art, what is included is certainly open for debate. Some might have wanted more commonly known examples included and those who want to gatekeep art might be offended that works they don't like were included, even when they cloak their opposition in pseudo-theoretical manure. But the works included all serve as excellent examples of the many ways the stories and backgrounds of art works can be lost or hidden, and how we can recover those histories. I would recommend this to anyone with an interest in art and art history, as well as restoration. I also think those with just a passing interest in art will enjoy the mysteries surrounding these works even if the works don't particularly speak to them. Reviewed from a copy made available by the publisher via NetGalley.

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This is a wonderful book. I received a free copy from NetGalley. I would recommend an actual print book, to better browse through these delightful pictures and the stories behind each painting. Though an ebook would be better for travel to have when viewing the actual pictures. Due to new technology, the author has been able to give interesting details about the history of the paining. I highly recommend this book. I am actually going to buy a print copy as well.

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In "The Secrets of Art," Debra N. Mancoff reveals what we can learn about paintings, photographs and other art objects, in particular through modern imaging techniques that were not available to previous generations. The material is accessible even for a non-expert like myself, and I found the many stories fascinating. The introduction jumps right into an example rather than giving an overview of Ms. Mancoff's intentions, which I found a little off-putting. I wanted more context about why this book is important. However, all in all, it was a delight, and I recommend it to art and mystery lovers alike.

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