Sanctity of the unsavory 2

[ by Charles Cameron — art meets theft, the theft of art meets the art of theft ]

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That Modigliani, Woman with a Fan (Lunia Czechowska) — detail:

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Foreground:

Today I was reading The French Burglar Who Pulled Off His Generation’s Biggest Art Heist. The burglar is named Vjeran Tomic, and known to le tout Paris as Spider Man.. It’s a fascinating piece, and inter alia illustrates once again the loose array of phenomena I’ve been noting under the rubric of unsavory sanctities..

At the =age of sixteen, magic hit Tomic:

Tomic was enraptured by Renoir’s glowing renderings of happy childhoods: kids playing with figurines, practicing the piano, snuggling with mothers. As Tomic saw it, Renoir had used his paintbrush to create a “parallel universe”—an enchanted version of the grim Parisian life he had known. “Renoir has a way of seeing life from a magical realm,” Tomic wrote to me. “It’s as if he even came from this place.”

Add a youthful, “devious” tendency to scaling walls, running roofs and theft, and you have the makings of a spectacular, special thief:

One night, he had a vivid dream in which he stole five paintings from a museum. He took it as a portent. As he wrote to me, “I knew that someday I would do something great.”

Even those he robbed could admire him:

I’ve always had respect for his style — an admiration for his temerity — and a sort of intimate affection for him … It was very much a Gentleman Burglar situation, Arsène Lupin style.” (Lupin, the quintessential debonair thief, was invented by the French novelist Maurice Leblanc, in 1905.)

And his friends:

A friend of Tomic’s described him as “brutal and a little wild.” At the same time, she said, he had a charming range of passions: “He is into aesthetics, classical music, nature, animals, epicurean pleasures—wine, cheese. He is very out there in his style, even his clothing.” (Tomic favors G-Star pants, New Balance sneakers, cashmere ski hats, and Lacoste underwear.) She said that Tomic was “like a poet,” noting that “he talks about the moon.”

It’s that last quote, of course, that perks me up, “poet” as applied to a master of theft strikes me as analogous to “saint” — and “he talks about the moon.” clinches the deal. More prosaically, “The Impressionist art feeds the poetry that is in him.”

By way of confirmation:

A friend of his compared him to a “shaman,” and added, “A work of art emits a vibration, a palpable energy, and Vjeran is able to connect to it.” When I asked Tomic about this assessment, he agreed, observing, “I love to touch antique objects, and I sense a great past—of generations and generations—that I think are a part of the works.”

A court-appointed psychologist came to a similar conclusion, noting that Tomic had described himself as a “visionary.”

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Read the rest yourself, and you’ll discover, if you’d never known, or like myself you’d forgotten, this intriguing and peripherally related fact:

In 1911, a relatively uncelebrated painting by Leonardo da Vinci, the “Mona Lisa,” was stolen from the Louvre. It took twenty-eight hours before anyone even noticed that it was gone. The painting was missing for two years and, during that time, a great many people went looking for it, and the media attention helped turn the “Mona Lisa” into the most famous painting in the world.

And much more — including the present uncertain fate of that Modigliani.

Here.

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Background:

We’d established (in Sermo I: Sanctity of the unsavory) that popular disposition extends the realm of sanctity to encompass some less than savory personalities:

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