July 15, 2015

Columnist Noah Charney on “Napoleon: Emperor of Art Theft” in "Lessons from the History of Art Crime" in the Spring 2015 issue of The Journal of Art Crime

In his regular column "Lessons from the History of Art Crime" Noah Charney writes on “Napoleon: Emperor of Art Theft” in the Spring 2015 issue of The Journal of Art Crimeedited by Charney (with Marc Balcells and Christos Tsirogiannis) and published by ARCA:
When Citizen Wicar, one of the key members of the art theft division of Napoleon's army, died in 1843, he bequeathed 1436 artworks as a gift to his birthplace, the city of Lille. Though most were works on papers (prints and drawings), this is an astonishing number. But there are two more facts about this bit of historical trivia that make it that much more surprising. First, almost all of these works had been stolen by him, personally, over the course of his service to the Napoleonic Army, in which he and several other officers were charged with selecting, removing, boxing up and shipping back to Paris art from the collection of those vanquished by la Grande Armee. Stealing over a thousand artworks is no small feat for a single person, even when with the sort of unrestricted access his position with the army allowed. Impressive enough, until we reach the second fact: Citizen Wicar had already sold most of the art he had stolen over the course of his post-war life, but still had those thousand odd pieces left over, to bequeath. In terms of quality, Citizen Wicar, who would serve as Keeper of Antiquities at the Louvre Museum, is the most prolific art thief in history. But it is his boss, Napoleon Bonaparte, who is often crowned with that title.
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 Art of Forgery (Phaidon 2015), The Collector of Lives: Giorgio Vasari and the Invention of Art (Norton 2015), and Art Crime: Terrorists, Tomb Raiders, Forgers and Thieves, an edited collection of essays on art crime (Palgrave 2014). 

Here's a link to ARCA's website about access to The Journal of Art Crime.

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