REVIEW The House of Fragile Things

The French culture minister’s recent announcement that the Musée d’Orsay is to return a Klimt to the heirs of its Viennese Jewish owner, forced to sell it in 1938, shows how much the plunder of art by the Nazis is a live issue even today. James McAuley’s book provides the backstory to what was a far-reaching and systematic crime with a meticulous overview of Jewish art collectors in early 20th-century France – a glittering milieu that included the Camondos, Ephrussis and Rothschilds – and tells how, despite sacrificing their sons to the country’s army, so many were ultimately betrayed.

The House of Fragile Things (James McAuley, Yale, 2022, ISBN 9780300264692, 320pp, £11.99)


This book review was written for the June 2022 issue of France magazine, cancelled when a change of ownership brought an end to print publication; the title now exists in online form only.

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