- 19 years ago today, 13 works of art valued at a combined total of $500 million were stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston.
- Among them: The Concert by Vermeer, The Storm on the Sea of Galilee by Rembrandt, A Lady and Gentleman in Black by same, Chez Tortoni by Manet, La Sortie de Pesage by Degas, something called a “French Imperial Eagle”, and an ancient Chinese ritual bronze vessel.
- Notably not among them: Vermeer’s A Lady Writing a Letter.
- I found this last point out only today, and it comes as a great blow to me, because there is a William Carpenter poem called Girl Writing a Letter, which I love a lot and which is based on the conceit that one of the paintings stolen during the Isabella Gardner Museum theft was Vermeer’s A Lady Writing a Letter.
- As it turns out, Vermeer’s A Lady Writing a Letter was nowhere near the Isabella Stewart Gardner museum at the time of the celebrated heist, and so was never stolen.
- William Carpenter, it seems, was taking poetic license. He was taking an event that actually happened and making a better story out of it, so that he could write a poem that I and lots of other people love.
- Why then does this strike me as an offense bordering on the criminal?
- William Carpenter is a poet. If he is not allowed to take poetic license then who is? What kind of literal-minded freak would take exception to this?
- We all know the answer to this question (me), and we would all do ourselves a good turn by dropping the whole poetic license business and turning back to the facts at hand, which is that 19 years ago to the day, 13 works of art valued at a combined total of $500 million were stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston.
- The facts, per Wikipedia: In the early hours of March 18, guards at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum admitted two men posing as police officers responding to a disturbance call. Once inside, the thieves tied up the guards and over the next hour committed the largest-value recorded theft of private property in history.
- I like this second sentence’s distinction, serving, as it does, as a reminder that there are many different varieties of theft, and that private property theft is given more prominence in discussions about stealing because the loss is precisely quantifiable.
- Happy birthday.
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