May 8, 2011

Mother's Day and Art Theft: Remembering A Mother's Day Ruse Two Years Ago in a Brazilian Heist and the Mother Who Destroyed Art Evidence

Happy Mother's Day!
(Photo by Erin Sibel Sezgin)

by Catherine Schofield Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor-in-Chief

In my household, my adolescent children laugh a lot about the difference between what their mother does and what the holiday cards say mothers do -- apparently my children do not see me as someone who washes their laundry or spreads butter on their toast -- but as the person who insists on seeing art museums in every city they have visited and is undeterred by their reluctance to see one more exhibition. My children's lives changed when they heard their mother say, "My dream is to go to Italy and study art crime." But as a mother, I do believe that art helps the children understand our communal link to the past and art crime of course is a narrative form that focuses our attention on those artworks.

So today, while my children sleep in, I searched online about "Mother's Day and art theft" and found two interesting examples.

Two years ago the blogger "Art Hostage" wrote "Stolen Art Watch, Brazilian Art theft, Overkill or What" commenting on an article in "El National" in Caracas, Venezuela that reported on a residential art theft executed by a gang of twenty art thieves in Brazil who entered the home after the delivery of flowers for Mother's Day.

The second story is about the mother of repeat offender and art thief, Stephane Breitweiser, who destroyed artworks allegedly stolen by her son to eliminate evidence.

The Guardian's Jon Henley in 2002 reported "Priceless art haul destroyed by thief's mother" that Mireille Breitwieser destroyed 60 Old Master Paintings including works by "Boucher, Cranach, Watteau and Breughel".

Her son was arrested last month, again for stealing more art, Le Parisien recounted that Stephane's mother had previously (according to Google translate) "abandoned a tapestry on the edge of a motorway, paintings in a chapel, while copper paintings, discovered in a forest by a farmer, had been found in the barn of the farmer."

She served 18 months in prison for destroying art. This is exactly why mothers should not clean up their children's messes.

Happy Mother's Day!

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