May 13, 2012

Art Crime in Film: Art Theft and Helen Mirren Starring in "Painted Lady" (1997)

Judith Slaying Holofernes
by Artemisia Gentileschi at the Uffizi Gallery 
Just for fun ...

"Painted Lady" features the beautiful Helen Mirren, art crime, and an Hérmes handbag.

Mirren stars in the 1997 three hour TV movie "Painted Lady" as a 'retired' singer and former drug addict who poses as aristocratic art collector (accessorized with a black Hérmes Kelly bag) to safe the life of a family friend who owes drug money to dangerous Irish criminals.  The heavily art-themed plot involves the theft of an Irish manor, theft for insurance money, reattribution of a painting, a sale at an auction house, and looted art from Italy during World War II.

Maggie Sheridan lives in a cottage on the Irish estate of a family friend, Sir Charles Stafford.  One night while Maggie is blissfully entertaining a friend, burglars clip the barb wire surrounding the property and drive up to the house.  They smash the glass of a French door and set off the alarm, awakening Charles.  The house dog barks furiously from behind a closed door.  One thief carries a framed painting out to the truck, the other thief is cutting a canvas from its frame when Charles, holding a gun, stops the thief from stealing the portrait of his deceased wife.  The threatened thief shoots Charles dead.  After driving away, the thieves switch the painting to a second vehicle, blow up the getaway car, and then deliver the large canvas to their boss who orders it to be burned.  One of the thieves only pretends to burn the painting and later tries to sell the painting.

Maggie's life is turned upside down when she finds out that it was the cash-strapped Charles who orchestrated the theft of recently insured paintings in order to pay off the 60,000 pound debt his drug-addicted son Sebastian owes to a dangerous Irish gangster.

The movie features Judith Beheading Holofernes by Artemisia Gentileschi which is on display at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence.

"Painted Lady" is available on DVD or through a video subscription service such as Netflix.

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