Posted by : Robert Child Wednesday
Excerpt from The Russian van Gogh:
HARVARD U. KENNEDY SCH OF GOVT. AUD., CAMBRIDGE, MA
A tall, attractive blue eyed woman, 32, with long dark hair, classic features and ample curves moves confidently across a stage casting a shadow on a projector screen. She has a man intimidating educated air coupled with approachable all-American good looks. A study in contrast she is Harvard Art History Professor and Forensic Art Detective, Riley Spenser and she moves a red laser pointer to the screen.
On screen a painted seascape is illuminated. The words below the painting reveal it as a Rembrandt with the title, Storm on the Sea of Galilee. Above the painting is a dollar figure, $500 Million.
Spenser looks at the image a moment and turns to her audience of 300 people, “and finally the infinitely irreplaceable, Storm on the Sea of Galilee by Rembrandt rounds out the 13 works of art stolen in the St. Patrick’s Day heist at the Gardener Museum in 1990. This combined with the stolen Vermeer make this burglary the largest single property theft in recorded history at $500 million and the items have yet to be recovered.”
Letting this sink in a moment she continues, “Art theft has gone on since the age of the Egyptians and mostly during times of war. The spoils of war become the scared national treasures of the victor. And no one questions it - even though most of the Italian art hanging in the Louvre was stolen by Napoleon in his Italian campaign of 1796.” Smiling she humorously adds, “In fact the terms his Modena Armistice were simple, ‘you give us your art, or we don’t stop shooting.” The audience chuckles and Riley, impassioned, concludes her talk. “Art endures ladies and gentlemen. It transcends boundaries and conquerors. It is the only object we will ever see during our lifetimes that can be said to be truly immortal. In each original piece the artist has left something of himself or herself. The same Mona Lisa you admire today is the exact one da Vinci labored over for more than five years in his studio. That is what personally connects us to him and only original works of art can accomplish that. No one person or country can possess art in perpetuity. In the end the artist intended that it belong to all of us. Thank you ladies and gentlemen. Thank you very much.”
Professor Spenser exits to audience applause and is quickly speeding north in her Audi on Memorial Drive alongside the Charles.
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