September 16, 2012

Movies "The Maiden Heist" and "St. Trinian's" offer fun comic twists on the art heist caper

Worcester Art Museum's Renaissance Court (WAM)
by Catherine Sezgin,
 ARCA Blog Editor-in-Chief

In Southern California from where I edit this blog, the hot weather here is a great time for cleaning out offices and watching art crime movies.  Here's this week's picks:

The Maiden Heist (2009, now on DVD) tells of how three bland security guards (played with dry humor by Morgan Freedman, Christopher Walken, William H. Macy) steal their favorite works of art which have been targeted to move from Boston to Denmark.  The art works featured were created for the movie.  The Maiden Heist is a love story about the personal magnatism of art and its ability to transform our lives by love as shown in the movie's subplot (Marcia Gay Harden plays the wife of Christopher Walken, a hardworking beautician with dreams of a warmer climate).  This heist movie was partially filmed at Massachusetts' Worcester Art Museum.  In December 2007 the Worcester Art Museum "allowed movie makers to transform its Renaissance Court and galleries into a set for the $20 million feature film The Maiden Heist" (ARCA Trustee Anthony Amore and journalist Tom Mashberg in their book Stealing Rembrandts (Palgrave Macmillan, 2011).

Forty years ago, on Wednesday, May 17, 1972, two men hired by Florian "Al" Monday entered the Worcester Art Museum late in the afternoon and removed four paintings from the walls 'in such a methodical manner' that museum 'visitors assumed the thieves were museum employees doing their jobs' (Stealing Rembrandts, page 42).   Then the two thieves 'remembered to pull down the blue-and-orange ski masks' (SR), placed the selected paintings into sacks, and walked to the main entrance of the museum.  Unfortunately, museum guard Philip J. Evans grabbed one of the thieves and was shot.  The four paintings (Gauguin's Brooding Woman and Head of a Woman, Picasso's Mother and Child, Rembrandt's St. Bartholomew) were later recovered.

The DVD for The Maiden Heist showed a trailer for St. Trinian's, a comedy about free-spirited girls who save their boarding school from bankruptcy.  Under the tutelage of a criminal played by Russell Brand, the students concoct a plan to steal Vermeer's The Girl with the Pearl Earring from the National Gallery in London (this painting is owned by the Mauritshuis in The Hague). The caper involves blowing up sewer gates, high wire climbing, and dancing through security beams. A copy of Vermeer's painting is sold on the 'black' market and the original is found by a couple of St. Trinian's schoolgirls.

Both movies can be viewed by middle-school and high-school students.

Other paintings of St. Bartholomew by Rembrandt can be found at the Timken Museum of Art in San Diego's Balboa Park and Los Angeles' Getty Center.