The End of the Game of Cards — Ernest Meissonier

Plagiarism

The largest art theft in world history occurred in Boston on March 18, 1990 when thieves stole 13 pieces from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.

Collectively worth $300 million.

$400 million.

At least $500 million.

Among the pieces stolen was Vermeer’s The Concert, which is considered to be the most valuable stolen painting in the world.

Also among the pieces stolen: Landscape with an Obelisk, which previously was attributed to Rembrandt.

Having achieved youthful success as a portrait painter, Rembrandt’s later years were marked by personal tragedy and financial hardships.

He died within a year of his son, on October 4, 1669 in Amsterdam, and was buried in an unmarked grave in the Westerkerk. 

More than half the subjects of Rembrandt’s etchings are portraits and studies of the human figure; about one-quarter are scriptural or religious. There are two dozen landscapes, and the remainder are allegorical and fancy compositions.

Rembrandt was his own most frequent model.

At least 40 paintings and 31 etchings. Maybe 60. Maybe 70.

Frida Kahlo produced 143 paintings, 55 of which are self-portraits.

Because I am so often alone.

Because I am the subject I know best.

The most acclaimed self-portrait of Leonardo da Vinci is critically, irreparably damaged.

The portrait has got blotches, stains and spots, a condition called foxing.

foxing

Leonardo’s self-portrait measures 33.5 by 21.6 centimetres (13.2 by 8.5 inches).

Any list of most famous paintings  would be incomplete without the mention of the Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci.

This infamous portrait of Lisa del Giocondo was completed some time between 1503-1519 and currently on display at the Musee du Louvre in Paris.

Leonardo used a pyramid design to place the woman simply and calmly in the space of the painting.

Between 1851 and 1880, artists who visited the Louvre copied Mona Lisa roughly half as many times as certain works by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, Antonio da Correggio, Paolo Veronese, Titian, Jean-Baptiste Greuze and Pierre-Paul Prud’hon.

And in 1911, Louis Béroud.

The Mona Lisa’s fame was emphasized when it was stolen on 21 August 1911.

On 22 August 1911, Louis Béroud walked into the Louvre and went to the Salon Carré where the Mona Lisa had been on display for five years. However, where the Mona Lisa should have stood, he found four iron pegs.

French poet Guillaume Apollinaire, who had once called for the Louvre to be “burnt down,” came under suspicion; he was arrested and put in jail. Apollinaire tried to implicate his friend Pablo Picasso, who was also brought in for questioning, but both were later exonerated.

(In 1900 Apollinaire would write his first pornographic novel, Mirely, ou le petit trou pas cher, which was eventually lost).

The 1991 film Hudson Hawk (1991) centers on a cat burglar who is forced to steal Da Vinci works of art for a world domination plot.

A colossally sour and ill-conceived misfire.

In 1812 France was devastated when its invasion of Russia turned out to be a colossal failure in which scores of soldiers in Napoleon’s Grand Army were killed or badly wounded.

Napoleon’s conquests in Europe were followed by a systematic attempt, later more tentatively echoed by Hitler, to take the finest works of art of conquered nations back to the Louvre in Paris for a grand central museum of all Europe.

Napoleon boasted:

We will now have all that is beautiful in Italy except for a few objects in Turin and Naples.

The contents of nearly all the tombs of the Pharaohs were already completely looted by grave robbers before the invasion of Egypt by Alexander the Great in 332 BCE.

Rome was sacked seven times.

King Shishak of Egypt attacked Jerusalem and took away the treasures of the Lord’s temple and of the royal palace. He took everything, including the gold shields that Solomon had made.

In the Book of Jeremiah 15:11 the Lord says:

Jerusalem, I will surely send you away for your own good. I will surely bring the enemy upon you in a time of trouble and distress. I will give away your wealth and your treasures as plunder. I will give it away free of charge for the sins you have committed throughout your land.

Sack of Constantinople by the Fourth Crusade, 1204.

The Sack of Baghdad, 1258.

Hernán Cortés and the looting of the Aztec gold.

Adolf Hitler was an unsuccessful artist who was denied admission to the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts.

The Third Reich amassed hundreds of thousands of objects from occupied nations and stored them in several key locations, such as Musée Jeu de Paume in Paris and the Nazi headquarters in Munich.

Later, storing the artworks in salt mines and caves for protection from Allied bombing raids.

These mines and caves offered the appropriate humidity and temperature conditions for artworks.

Raphael’s Portrait of a Young Man was confiscated from a Polish family by the Nazis in 1939 for Hitler’s Führermuseum in Linz.

It disappeared in 1945 shortly before the end of the Second World War.

On 1 August 2012, the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced that the painting had been found in a bank vault in an undisclosed location.

Thirty years after it was stolen, Camille Pissarro’s Le Marche aux Poissons was returned to the French.

Authorities believe they know who stole art from Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in the largest art heist in U.S. history.

Eventually they will resurface. Somebody will rat somebody else out. It’s really only a matter of time.

A drawing stolen from an ice cream shop is now back in the hands of its creator.

Benjamin Black’s Vengeance (Book Acquired, 3.06.2013)

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Vengeance, the latest in Benjamin Black’s Quirke series. From Janet Maslin’s New York Times review last year:

Vengeance” once again leads Quirke into his favorite kind of trouble: “yet another morass of human cupidity and deceit,” involving the deaths of powerful men and the foxy insolence of their glamorous widows. It breaks no new ground.

But why should Benjamin Black tamper with a winning formula? The crimes aren’t graphic or even terribly central. And the detecting questions don’t count for much. The books are far more notable for malaise, atmospherics, sexual chemistry and vast amounts of swirling tobacco smoke and mind-muddling alcohol, without which justice could apparently never prevail.

Vengeance is new in trade paperback from Picador.

 

Deadly Virtues (Book Acquired, 3.01.2013)

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Deadly Virtues, a new mystery from Jo Bannister. Publishers Weekly review:

Stubborn morality and acid-tinged whimsy drive this superior stand-alone from British author Bannister (Liars All and eight other Brodie Farrell mysteries). Recovering mental patient Gabriel Ash looks pathetic and vulnerable as he rambles through the town of Norbold while talking to his dog. One day, at the local police station, where he’s recovering from a beating, Gabriel receives a cryptic message from a man who’s then killed by a crazed prisoner. Gabriel forces himself back into contact with normal humanity because he feels he ought to do something about the crime. Rookie policewoman Hazel Best is also dissatisfied with the official explanation of the tragedy. And so the three—the traumatized beating victim, the idealistic young cop, and the dog—begin sniffing under the pristine surface of the virtually crime-free town. They have no idea how dangerous good intentions can be. Bannister’s plotting is neat and her characterization smooth, with just enough irony to keep people from seeming ostentatiously noble

 

My Pet Serial Killer (Book Acquired, Some Time in January 2013)

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Okay: So I’ve been meaning to get to this one for awhile, but my review stack has just been too big.

Anyway, Michael J. Siedlinger’s My Pet Serial Killer is pretty weird stuff so far, but also compelling and very readable.

At Word Riot, Edward J. Rathke gave the book a favorable review, writing:

My Pet Serial Killer is a psychological thriller as pickup game as college days romance as media study as violent porn as metahorror as the most bizarre and cruelest master/slave relationship I can remember reading since John Fowles’ The Collector. Claire Wilkinson, a forensics graduate student, plays the pickup game but she searches for a very specific kind of lover: a serial killer. She finds her Gentleman Killer, tears him apart, and rebuilds him, hoping to mold the greatest serial killer ever, causing a media frenzy, and furthering her own academic career. Twisted without being overly violent, haunting without the ghosts, Claire is a narrator and protagonist that we race along with, burning through pages at a dizzying rate only to see what she does next.

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The book also got a good write-up at HTML Giant, which declared “Seidlinger is the sickest of the fucks. Few can compare.”

Read “A Tree, A Rock, A Cloud,” a Short Story by Carson McCullers

“A Tree, A Rock, A Cloud” by Carson McCullers

It was raining that morning, and still very dark. When the boy reached the streetcar café he had almost finished his route and he went in for a cup of coffee. The place was an all-night café owned by a bitter and stingy man called Leo. After the raw, empty street, the café seemed friendly and bright: along the counter there were a couple of soldiers, three spinners from the cotton mill, and in a corner a man who sat hunched over with his nose and half his face down in a beer mug. The boy wore a helmet such as aviators wear. When he went into the café he unbuckled the chin strap and raised the right flap up over his pink little ear; often as he drank his coffee someone would speak to him in a friendly way. But this morning Leo did not look into his face and none of the men were talking. He paid and was leaving the café when a voice called out to him:

“Son! Hey Son!”

He turned back and the man in the corner was crooking his finger and nodding to him. He had brought his face out of the beer mug and he seemed suddenly very happy. The man was long and pale, with a big nose and faded orange hair.

“Hey Son!”

The boy went toward him. He was an undersized boy of about twelve, with one shoulder drawn higher than the other because of the weight of the paper sack. His face was shallow, freckled, and his eyes were round child eyes.

“Yeah Mister?”

The man laid one hand on the paper boy’s shoulders, then grasped the boy’s chin and turned his face slowly from one side to the other. The boy shrank back uneasily.

“Say! What’s the big idea?”

The boy’s voice was shrill; inside the café it was suddenly very quiet.

The man said slowly. “I love you.”

All along the counter the men laughed. The boy, who had scowled and sidled away, did not know what to do. He looked over the counter at Leo, and Leo watched him with a weary, brittle jeer. The boy tried to laugh also. But the man was serious and sad.

“I did not mean to tease you, Son,” he said. “Sit down and have a beer with me. There is something I have to explain.”

Cautiously, out of the corner of his eye, the paper boy questioned the men along the counter to see what he should do. But they had gone back to their beer or their breakfast and did not notice him. Leo put a cup of coffee on the counter and a little jug of cream.

“He is a minor,” Leo said. Continue reading

Raskolnikov on Extraordinary and Ordinary People

 

“That wasn’t quite my contention,” he began simply and modestly. “Yet I admit that you have stated it almost correctly; perhaps, if you like, perfectly so.” (It almost gave him pleasure to admit this.) “The only difference is that I don’t contend that extraordinary people are always bound to commit breaches of morals, as you call it. In fact, I doubt whether such an argument could be published. I simply hinted that an ‘extraordinary’ man has the right… that is not an official right, but an inner right to decide in his own conscience to overstep… certain obstacles, and only in case it is essential for the practical fulfilment of his idea (sometimes, perhaps, of benefit to the whole of humanity). You say that my article isn’t definite; I am ready to make it as clear as I can. Perhaps I am right in thinking you want me to; very well. I maintain that if the discoveries of Kepler and Newton could not have been made known except by sacrificing the lives of one, a dozen, a hundred, or more men, Newton would have had the right, would indeed have been in duty bound… to eliminate the dozen or the hundred men for the sake of making his discoveries known to the whole of humanity. But it does not follow from that that Newton had a right to murder people right and left and to steal every day in the market. Then, I remember, I maintain in my article that all… well, legislators and leaders of men, such as Lycurgus, Solon, Mahomet, Napoleon, and so on, were all without exception criminals, from the very fact that, making a new law, they transgressed the ancient one, handed down from their ancestors and held sacred by the people, and they did not stop short at bloodshed either, if that bloodshed—often of innocent persons fighting bravely in defence of ancient law—were of use to their cause. It’s remarkable, in fact, that the majority, indeed, of these benefactors and leaders of humanity were guilty of terrible carnage. In short, I maintain that all great men or even men a little out of the common, that is to say capable of giving some new word, must from their very nature be criminals—more or less, of course. Otherwise it’s hard for them to get out of the common rut; and to remain in the common rut is what they can’t submit to, from their very nature again, and to my mind they ought not, indeed, to submit to it. You see that there is nothing particularly new in all that. The same thing has been printed and read a thousand times before. As for my division of people into ordinary and extraordinary, I acknowledge that it’s somewhat arbitrary, but I don’t insist upon exact numbers. I only believe in my leading idea that men are in general divided by a law of nature into two categories, inferior (ordinary), that is, so to say, material that serves only to reproduce its kind, and men who have the gift or the talent to utter a new word. There are, of course, innumerable sub-divisions, but the distinguishing features of both categories are fairly well marked. The first category, generally speaking, are men conservative in temperament and law-abiding; they live under control and love to be controlled. To my thinking it is their duty to be controlled, because that’s their vocation, and there is nothing humiliating in it for them. The second category all transgress the law; they are destroyers or disposed to destruction according to their capacities. The crimes of these men are of course relative and varied; for the most part they seek in very varied ways the destruction of the present for the sake of the better. But if such a one is forced for the sake of his idea to step over a corpse or wade through blood, he can, I maintain, find within himself, in his conscience, a sanction for wading through blood—that depends on the idea and its dimensions, note that. It’s only in that sense I speak of their right to crime in my article (you remember it began with the legal question). There’s no need for such anxiety, however; the masses will scarcely ever admit this right, they punish them or hang them (more or less), and in doing so fulfil quite justly their conservative vocation. But the same masses set these criminals on a pedestal in the next generation and worship them (more or less). The first category is always the man of the present, the second the man of the future. The first preserve the world and people it, the second move the world and lead it to its goal. Each class has an equal right to exist. In fact, all have equal rights with me—and vive la guerre éternelle—till the New Jerusalem, of course!”

From Chapter V of Part III of Dostoevsky’s novel Crime and Punishment.