December 9, 2013

"Victorian Art Theft in England: Early Cases and Sociology of the Crime Noah Charney and John Kleberg in the Fall 2013 issue of The Journal of Art Crime

The Fall 2013 issue of The Journal of Art Crime includes an academic article by ARCA Founder Noah Charney and John Kleberg on "Victorian Art Theft in England: Early Cases and Sociology of the Crime". This is the abstract:
Victorian England represents a distinctive sociological Petri dish for criminologists. Attitudes towards crime, the myth of the gentleman thief, and the important veneer of respectability beneath which flowed a rich vein of immorality and criminal activity are all unique to the time and place. And yet the influence of Victorian crime can still be felt today. The general public still assumes that thieves, in particular art thieves, adhere to Victorian (and later Edwardian) stereotypes: that art thieves are non-violent, educated men of gentlemanly aspirations. This was the case in some famous cases, notably that of Adam Worth, described here. But the perception among the general public has not caught up with the more devastating realities of art crime, that it is the third highest-grossing criminal trade worldwide since the Second World War, and that it is entwined with the drug and arms trades, and even terrorism. This paper examines two famous Victorian art theft case studies, discusses the Victorian origin of museums and the art market, and concludes with how these high-profile cases influenced the public perception of art theft, and continues to do so to this day.
This is an introduction to the article:
Victorian England represents a distinctive sociological petri dish for criminologists. Attitudes towards crime, the myth of the gentleman thief, and the important veneer of respectability beneath which flowed a rich vein of immorality and criminal activity are all unique to the time and place. And yet the influence of Victorian crime can still be felt today. The general public still assumes that thieves, in particular art thieves, adhere to Victorian (and later Edwardian) stereotypes: that art thieves are non-violent, educated men of gentlemanly aspirations. This was the case in some famous cases, notably that of Adam Worth, described here. But the perception among the general public has not caught up with the more devastating realities of art crime, that it is the third highest- grossing criminal trade worldwide since the Second World War, and that it is entwined with the drug and arms trades, and even terrorism. This paper examines two famous Victorian art theft case studies, discusses the Victorian origin of museums and the art market, and concludes with how these high-profile cases influenced the public perception of art theft, particularly the archetype of the “gentleman thief,” and continues to do so to this day. 
The extent of theft of fine art across the world, while estimates vary, is most certainly a significant contemporary issue. But the history of such theft, punctuated by extraordinary examples in times of war, is less well documented until more recent times. Two examples, one by an amateur and one by a “professional,” demonstrate the perceived potential value to criminals in Victorian times in England. Known thefts of art from churches exist but it may well be that these two cases represent the earliest examples for financial gain of the theft of fine art.

While details on the amateur thief and the investigation are less available the stories of both are, nonetheless, interesting as possibly the first significant theft of art during this period.
Noah Charney holds Masters degrees in art history from The Courtauld Institute and University of Cambridge, and a PhD from University of Ljubljana. He is Adjunct Professor of Art History at the American University of Rome, a Visiting Lecturer for Brown University abroad programs, and is the founder of ARCA, the Association for Research into Crimes against Art, a non-profit research group on issues of art crimes. Charney is the author of numerous academic and popular articles, including a regular column in ArtInfo called “The Secret History of Art” and a weekly interview series in The Daily Beast called “How I Write.” His first novel, The Art Thief (Atria 2007), is currently translated into seventeen languages and is a best seller in five countries. He is the editor of an academic essay collection entitled Art & Crime: Exploring the Dark Side of the Art World (Praeger 2009) and the Museum Time series of guides to museums in Spain (Planeta 2010). His is author of a critically acclaimed work of non-fiction, Stealing the Mystic Lamb: the True History of the World’s Most Coveted Masterpiece (PublicAffairs 2011), which is a best seller in two countries. His latest book is The Thefts of the Mona Lisa: On Stealing the World’s Most Famous Painting (ARCA Publications 2011). Upcoming books include The Book of Forgery (Phaidon 2014), The Invention of Art (Norton 2015), and an as yet untitled edited collection of essays on art crime (Palgrave 2014).


John Kleberg is a retired Assistant Vice President at The Ohio State University where he was instrumental in organizing a program to identify and record un-catalogued art and artifacts possessed by the University as well as having administrative responsibility for security, police, and other business and finance operations. He also has been a law enforcement administrator, trainer, and educator in Ohio and Illinois. His undergraduate degree is from Michigan State University, graduate degree from the University of Illinois, and he has done post-graduate work at The Ohio State University and Kent State University. He is the author of numerous articles on campus safety and security issues, co-authored several books and is a consultant on campus security issues, including campus museums, libraries, and galleries.

Design for this issue and all issues of The Journal of Art Crime is the work of Urška Charney.

Here's a link to ARCA's website on The Journal of Art Crime (includes Table of Contents for previous issues).

0 comments:

Post a Comment