Lost Treasures of Europe: 427 Photographs

Lost Treasures of Europe: 427 Photographs

Lost Treasures of Europe: 427 Photographs

Lost Treasures of Europe: 427 Photographs


The second world war has passed on into history and has left a dazed and weakened world to take stock once more of the losses sustained during another period of self-immolation.

Throughout history man has had to face the eventual destruction of himself and of the material evidences of his culture either as the result of Time or from the effects of War. As regards his culture, much of this can be and has been transmitted to succeeding generations by the persistence of his memory, by the toughness of his spirit, and by the vitality of his institutions. But the more tangible, visible evidences of his culture and of his creative spirit, such as the arts of architecture, sculpture and painting, those ever-present reminders of the creative genius latent in man, these indeed are and always have been at the mercy either of the disintegrating processes of time or of the sudden ravages of war. Time has in most cases been the more lenient of the two.

We recall the ruthlessness of the armies of antiquity, razing the cities of their enemies in order to wipe out the traces of rival power or glory. The evidence of their fury has been amply laid bare by the spade of the archaeologist. But even then, as the respect for culture grew apace, there are many instances of conquerors acting more leniently and allowing centers of art and culture to survive. The effect on later generations of this survival is evident to anyone paging through the records of history.

On the whole, movable works of art such as sculpture, painting and the minor arts have had a more fortunate history than has architecture. They could either be hidden for safety or might even be carried off as booty. They had greater chances for survival. It is a matter of record, of course, how many masterpieces of Greek sculpture carried off to Italy have been transmitted to us either in the original or through Roman copies. During the wars in modern times it has been equally true that architecture has sustained the greatest damage and losses as the result of military operations. Improved instruments of destruction and bombing from the air have heightened the possibilities for complete annihilation.

A program to safeguard historical monuments and works of art and to record the damaged sustained had already been undertaken by Italy, France and Germany during the First World War. These, however, were the concern of Europe, and America had no part in them.

At the outbreak of the Second World War, similar protective measures for art monuments were initiated by the various European countries, but on a larger scale. However with America's entry into the war a new situation arose. The successful termination of the struggle could only be accomplished by an invasion of Europe. The first points of invasion were to be Italy and France. The success of these operations would imply the eventual invasion of Holland, Belgium, Germany and Austria. Greece, too, would have to bear the bitters of a new invasion. American military forces would be predominant in these invasions. Would America therefore also assume her share of the responsibility to safeguard the cultural heritage of those countries through which the armies marched?

No matter what her particular contributions are and have been to the civilization and culture of the modern world, America has her own cultural roots deep in the traditions of Europe.

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