As Prof. Wolfgang Eichwede once put it, “Some people have princesses and fairies. Others have the Amber Room.” Often referred to as the “Eighth Wonder of the World,” the Amber Room was commissioned by Prussia’s Frederick I in the early 18th century. With over 100,000 pieces of various shades of amber inlaid with mosaics, the room caught the eye of collector and amber aficionado Peter the Great. In its new Russian home, the room fascinated Empresses Elizabeth and Catherine the Great, so much so that the latter commissioned artisans to add additional elaborate mirrors, Romanov crests, gemstones, and 70 objets d’art that dazzled all who saw it in its presumably permanent home in a palace outside St. Petersburg.
But the story, far from ending here, evolved into one of the greatest mysteries of the 20th century. It is this story of the world’s most famous missing treasure that American Literature Professor and Poet Judith Rypma explores in her latest poetry book, Looking for the Amber Room. “It’s a tale of stolen art, but it’s also a legend that has enthralled—and continues to frustrate—armies of treasure hunters who at this very moment are scouring four countries in search of it,” Rypma says.
As Elizabeth Kolbert points out in the Los Angeles Times, “The Amber Room is exquisite and precious and lost. Like all great objects of desire, it is unattainable.” Yet if there is a way to bring it back, at least for the time it takes to savor these lyrical, imagistic poems, Rypma’s poetic search has discovered it.