Saving Leonardo de Vinci’s “Lady with the Ermine”

September 1939 and Edith Becker sits with her hands trembling beneath the table where she’s seated before some of the most important men of the Alte Pinakoteck, one of Munich’s greatest museums.  Usually, Edith’s work as a conservator keeps her ] behind the scenes, but today she’s been asked to identify and comment on paintings held in private collections across Poland.  What she doesn’t know is that this is just the beginning of an extensive and highly organized plot to plunder Europe’s artwork and use it to glorify the Third Reich. 

Fiction Editor Yona Zeldis McDonough talks to Laura Morelli about The Night Portrait,  (William Morrow, $16.99) a novel that traces the fraught journey of Leonardo de Vinci’s famous Lady with the Ermine, and how this priceless work of art was ultimately saved. 

YZM: How did the idea to write about this aspect of World War II come to you?