A riveting history and maritime adventure about priceless masterpieces originally destined for Catherine the Great.
On October 1771, a merchant ship out of Amsterdam,Vrouw Maria, crashed off the stormy Finnish coast, taking her historic cargo to the depths of the Baltic Sea. The vessel was delivering a dozen Dutch masterpiece paintings to Europe’s most voracious collector: Catherine the Great, Empress of Russia. Among the lost treasures was The Nursery, an oak-paneled triptych by Leiden fine painter Gerrit Dou, Rembrandt’s most brilliant student and Holland’s first international superstar artist. Dou’s triptych was long the most beloved and most coveted painting of the Dutch Golden Age, and its loss in the shipwreck was mourned throughout the art world.
Vrouw Maria, meanwhile, became a maritime legend, confounding would-be salvagers for more than two hundred years. In July 1999, a daring Finnish wreck hunter found Vrouw Maria, upright on the sea floor and perfectly preserved. The Tsarina’s Lost Treasure masterfully recounts the fascinating tale of Vrouw Maria—her loss and discovery—weaving together the rise and fall of the artist whose priceless masterpiece was the jewel of the wreckage.
Gerald Easter and Mara Vorhees bring to vivid life the personalities that drove (and are still driving) this compelling tale, evoking Robert Massie’s depiction of Russian high politics and culture, Simon Schama’s insights into Dutch Golden Age art and art history, Gary Kinder’s spirit of, danger and adventure on the beguiling Archipelago Sea.
“Gerald Easter and Maria Vorhees skillfully weave the shipwreck of the Vrouw Maria and its secret cargo with the lives of Dutch Golden Age painter Gerrit Dou and Russia’s art-loving Catherine the Great. The high stakes search for the tsarina’s lost treasure, 18th century and modern, reads like a detective story. A true delight for fans of art, mystery, and maritime archeology.”
– Susan Jaques, author of The Empress of Art and The Caesar of Paris
An apprentice to Rembrandt, Gerritt Dou eventually surpassed his teacher in fame and wealth. Over the centuries, however, Dou’s reputation has shifted repeatedly with the tides of fashion in the arts. His story makes up one strand of this engaging new book by Easter and Vorhees. An intriguing narrative, and an entertaining yarn whose ending is yet to be written.
– Kirkus Review
Easter and Vorhees braid the various threads of the story into a coherent whole and make a persuasive case for attempting to salvage the ship and its “incomparable cultural relics.” Readers will covet this intriguing portrait of an art world mystery.