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    Buy the Prado's Official Museum Guide Instead

    2.5 stars I'm not sure what I was expecting from Javier Sierra's The Master of the Prado, but whatever it was, it certainly wasn't this. The Master of the Prado sounded, from the publisher's description, as if it were the literary equivalent of Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code, featuring a protagonist who discovers historical and supernatural mysteries hidden in plain sight in paintings by Old Masters. In The Master of the Prado, those artists include Raphael, Sandro Botticelli, Titian, Hieronymus Bosch, Brueghel the Elder, and El Greco, along with the lesser known Sebastiano del Piombo, Ambrogio Bergognone, Bernandino Luini, and Juan de Juanes. The book contains beautiful full-color reproductions of the works Sierra discusses with his enigmatic guide Dr. Fovel, which show up magnificently even on an e-reader. Unfortunately for a novel, however, the paintings are the highlight. The prose is pedantic - the visual analog of the stereotypical art history professor's drone in a darkened classroom; while I learned a couple of interesting things about Renaissance imagery, this is not why I pick up a novel. Sierra ably summarizes the entire 294-page book (excluding endnotes) in a single paragraph on page 184: "I now thought of [some of the paintings in the Prado] as tools built by extremely sensitive minds not at all concerned with achieving mere aesthetic pleasure. I'd begun to convince myself that the larger purpose behind these paintings - where their true meaning lay - had always been to keep open certain portals to the "other world." It was as if the art was simply keeping alive its original mystical mission dating back to the cave paintings in northern Spain some forty thousand years before. If Fovel was right, this was a secret that only those painters had known, perhaps along with some of their patrons. And now me." If that paragraph intrigues you, then by all means pick up a copy of The Master of the Prado; if not, the official museum guide published by the Prado is cheaper and can be purchased from its website. I received a free copy of The Master of the Prado through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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