|MONUMENT MAN: If Robert Edsel appears cocky, he has a right to be.
photography by Matthew Hawthorne
Though Robert Edsel might not be a household name just yet, a look at his résumé certainly points toward celebrity. After graduating from St. Mark’s, Edsel played college tennis, started an oil and gas company and later sold it for $37.9 million, lived in Florence, climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, renovated a villa, and wrote the nonfiction book Rescuing Da Vinci. He also co-produced The Rape of Europa, a documentary that details the Nazis’ systematic looting of Europe’s cultural treasures. Narrated by acclaimed actress Joan Allen (Nixon, The Contender), it’s one of 15 films in the Documentary Feature category short-listed for an Academy Award.
Currently, Edsel’s working on a second book and getting the word out about the film. His main focus, though, is tracking down, interviewing, and honoring the Monuments Men—the men (and women) responsible for protecting artistic and cultural treasures during World War II. He hopes to document their stories before they die. “I’m not a trained expert,” Edsel says. “But I am very passionate, and I know how to get things done.” To wit: as president of the Monuments Men Foundation for the Preservation of Art, Edsel worked with members of Congress for more than a year to develop a resolution (which passed last June) to recognize the role of the Monuments Men.
Last we heard, Edsel was in London, participating in a ceremony honoring a British woman for her service during World War II. Dallas is where he packs and unpacks—and occasionally eats—between plane rides. “I still go home to my parents for a home-cooked meal,” he says.