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'Mona Winks': Art With Wit

December 18, 1988

Europe's museums house a wealth of treasures, but many travelers are intimidated by the seriousness of the art world and avoid visiting them, say travel writer Rick Steves and tour guide Gene Openshaw.

To remove the mystique from art museums and make them easy and entertaining stops during a tour in Europe, the two have co-authored "Mona Winks: Self-Guided Tours of Europe's Top Muesums" (John Muir Publications: $14.95, paperback). This is an irreverent, entertaining and informative guidebook for travelers who know little about art history but who do want to see the best of Europe.

The book gives information on each museum, bits of background information and museum diagrams organized to map out efficient tours. The publishers say: "You can love the Louvre with its 300,000 treasures and be out of there in two hours."

Even if you aren't heading for Europe, the book's witty style and commentary are entertaining and educational. For example, while noting that Renaissance artist Albrecht Durer's painting of himself (at the Prado in Madrid) is considered the first example of a true self-portrait, the writers describe the picture as "the look of a mod-hip-fab-rad young guy, a man of the world."

In a chapter on the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, Altdorfer's "Resurrection" is described as "like a gaudy poster for a bad horror film--'Easter Sunday III.' "

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