Biggest humanity’s failure in preserving artworks
Have you heard about Picasso painting attacked at Tate Modern? A man has been charged with criminal damage after a £20m Picasso painting was attacked at the Tate Modern art gallery in London on Saturday. But history knows the other cases of vandalism and theft, committed by human beings, and here we go with the description of some of them.
GIOCONDA AND PATRIOTISM
Gioconda became really famous after August 21, 1911, when she was abducted from the museum. The painting was stolen when museum exhibits were photographed for a catalog. It took 28 hours to lose, and two and a half years to find, in both cases, without much bustling – the thief had already worked in the museum and was good prepared. He, Vincenzo Perugia, was guided by patriotic feeling (wanting to return the masterpiece to Italy, to his homeland, conditionally forgetting that the author of the picture brought it himself to France). However, this did not prevent him from making an attempt to sell the painting to the director of the Uffizi Museum, where he was caught red handed. The sentence for the patriot was soften to just 8 months.
After returning to the museum on January 4, 1914, the “Mona Lisa” became famous everywhere, in such a manner that it became a symbol of that time, as well as the face of pop culture.
Norwegian expressionist Edward Munch worked hard to create one of his most famous paintings, making 4 variants – two in oil and two in pastel. His efforts did not go unnoticed not only by the general public, but also by thieves.
An earlier, canonical picture of 1893 (National Gallery) was stolen in 1994, at the opening of the Winter Olympic Games. The criminals climbed up the stairs and entered the building through the window, cleverly turning off the signal system and leaving a thank-you note about the poor security system at the place of the loss. They did not have to rejoice for a long time – the police caught them after three weeks of research.
The 1910 version was also stolen, at that time from the Munch Museum. Two armed criminals carried her along with another work – “Madonna” – threatening the security guard and intimidating visitors who were in the museum. A year later, the accomplices of the crime were caught, but the paintings were found only in 2006 and put on display after a minor restoration.
“I am Jesus Christ!” – it was with this cry that the criminal committed one of the most awful acts of vandalism to a work of art, rushing with a hammer on Michelangelo sculpture “Pieta”. This was the Australian Laszlo Tot, who hit 15 times the sculptural group: he beat off the hand of the statue of the Virgin Mary and injured her face. He had previously written letters to the Pope indicating his dissatisfaction with the Catholic Church and the propaganda of the image of the dead and not resurrected Christ (which, in his opinion, was “Pieta”).
The end of the story is quite good – the statue was restored and placed under bulletproof glass, while the man was declared insane and kept for two years in a psychiatric hospital, after which he was deported back to Australia.
VAN GOGH MUSEUM – AND THAT’S ALL
From April 13 to 14, 1991, criminals had removed 20 paintings of the famed impressionist from the building practically freely, taking on the account a disabled signal system. The police was called only one hour after the loss, but the paintings were found soon in a stolen car
On December 7, 2002, only two paintings were stolen, but this time research lasted for 14 years. More than that, the paintings were not insured. Finally, the theft was successful due to the amazing carelessness of security officers to what was happening – they forgot to turn cameras on and they didn’t hear the crash of the breaking window through which the criminals entered the building. In 2016, they were found, without frames, in the house of the drug lord, during an operation against the Neapolitan mafia syndicate “Camorra”.
Vann Meegeren and its copies
Dutchman van Meegeren – is the famous falsifier of the XX century. Without great artistic talent, he was able to use his imagination to fake paintings by great masters: in order to make artworks look at their own age, he baked them in a furnace, invented heat-resistant paints, and also was creating cracks with a rolling pin. His peculiar career began with the artwork “Christ at Emmaus”, recognized by the famous art critic as an original.
By the 1940s, the man had become a millionaire, but his fraud became known after one of the original’s discovery by the US military in 1945.
Van Meegeren admitted that everything he sold was faked, but nobody trusted him. To prove his fake he had been painting his last work, “Jesus among the Scribes” for six weeks in custody. After all, he was sentenced for only a year in prison, but had died before release.