Publication Date: August 1, 2023
In a race across Nazi-occupied Italy, two women—a German photographer and an American stenographer—hunt for priceless masterpieces looted from the Florentine art collections.
In the summer of 1943, Eva Brunner is taking photographs of Nazi-looted art hidden in the salt mines of the Austrian hinterland. Across the ocean in Connecticut, Josephine Evans is working as a humble typist at the Yale Art Gallery.
When both women are called to Italy to contribute to the war effort, neither imagines she will hold the fate of some of the world’s greatest masterpieces torn from the Uffizi Galleries and other Florentine art collections in her hands.
But as Italy turns from ally to enemy and Hitler’s plan to destroy irreplaceable monuments and works of art becomes frighteningly clear, each woman’s race against the clock—and against one another—might demand more than they were prepared to give.
The Last Masterpiece takes readers on a heart-pumping adventure up the Italian peninsula, where nothing is as it seems and some of the greatest works of art and human achievement are at stake. Who might steal and who might save a work of art—and at what cost?
Inspired by the incredible true story of the Monuments Women, the Fifth Army WACs, and the looted Florentine art collections during World War II, the latest historical novel by USA Today bestselling author and art historian Laura Morelli plunges readers into the heart of war-torn Italy.
With World War II raging, precious artifacts in Italy were used as pawns in a political chess game. Unlike other European countries, Italy was considered an “occupied ally,” meaning the Nazis were initially focused on cataloging and protecting art.
Author Laura Morelli uses a dual storyline in her historical fiction novel titled The Last Masterpiece. This approach works well in delivering the perspectives of two main characters on opposite sides.
Eva is tasked with taking photographs of the precious artworks. As a German/Austrian, she believes the Americans are planning to steal the treasures. In fact, the Italians reported the loss of many of them.
Josie joins the Women’s Army Corps, where she uses her skills as a stenographer. She’s on the frontlines of the Allied’s foray into Italy, where they locate several secret repositories.
The two women come together in a well-crafted set of events when Eva realizes the priceless works she has been documenting are destined to be part of Hitler’s personal collection. While Eva might be working on the wrong side of history, she knows the art belongs to the Italians.
It’s a fascinating look at history from two perspectives. Both sides want to protect the artwork but for different reasons.
The Last Masterpiece highlights the impact World War II had on Italian artifacts, with the Italians developing a plan to keep things safe from outside forces.
Laura Morelli holds a Ph.D. in art history from Yale University and is an award-winning, USA Today bestselling historical novelist. Laura has taught college students in the U.S. and in Italy. She has covered art and authentic travel for TED-Ed, National Geographic Traveler, Italy Magazine, CNN Radio, and other media. Laura is the author of the popular Authentic Arts guidebook series that includes Made in Italy. Her historical novels, including The Night Portrait and The Gondola Maker, bring the stories of art history to life.