In October 1771, the Vrouw Maria merchant ship sank off the coast of Finland. She carried lots of cargo, including several works of art that Empress Catherine the Great had bought at auction in Amsterdam from the collection of Gerrit Braamcamp. The lost works included Paulus Potter’s Large Herd of Oxen and Gerard ter Borch’s Woman at her Toilette.
Several attempts were made to find the wreck until it was finally located by Pro Vrouw Maria in 1999.
The Tsarina’s Lost Treasure brings together several storylines, including those of Catherine the Great, Gerrit Braamcamp, the crew of the merchant ship and the people who eventually located the shipwreck and the ensuing legal battle. The book is very well-written and manages to bring all sides to the story alive throughout the centuries. I liked that it didn’t focus too much on Catherine the Great’s backstory but did include her involvement in the auction and her growing art collection.
Unfortunately, many of Vrouw Maria’s treasures remain lost to us, so perhaps one day, there will be a sequel to the saga.