Reading an article in GQ magazine, I came upon a name I had never heard: Stéphane Breitwieser. What’s in a name? A question once asked by a pretty good writer, the name brought no emotions prior to the reading of this article. There are things that we know are truth and must be seen or heard; but after the deed is done, we wish we had never been exposed to it. For me, that was this article.
I have always been an aesthetic person. Even as a teenager, I would point out to my girlfriend, now wife, how beautiful a single, magnificent oak tree displayed its autumn crown or the way a barn barely held on to life in a field that had not seen a plow in fifty years. I just enjoy beauty in things, natural and man-made. I can sit in the Boston Museum of Fine Art in front of a painting by Monet or Degas’s The Little Dancer of Fourteen Years, just looking and admiring the exquisite beauty of a master. It is mesmerizing.
Then there is someone like Breitwieser with a juxtapositional personality for art that baffles the mind. He is an art thief who now sits in prison. He stole art, all kinds of art, not sell but to admire and hoard away in his tiny apartment. It was a compulsion. I will not go into the whole article, but in the end most of the stolen art was recovered . . . however there is this part of the article that took my breath:
[Breitwieser’s mother] creates a big pile, Breitwieser imagines, the portraits and still lifes and landscapes all jumbled, the luminaries of Renaissance art—Cranach, Brueghel, Teniers, Dürer, van Kessel, Dou—gathered as one. Every piece has survived some 300 years, through Europe’s bloody centuries, carrying its singular image to the world. Sixty-six paintings in total. In a haphazard heap.
A lighter is sparked and the flames rise, slowly at first and then wildly, oil paint bubbling, picture frames crackling, the great mass burning and burning until there’s almost nothing left but ash.
Gone. Insurance is no good. History erased because of this sub-human. No do-overs. Breitwieser did not merely steal from museums. He stole from humanity. I do not care that he is upset and cannot eat or needs counseling. Hopefully, he lives for a long, long time in prison and dies a miserable death ladened with regrets.
After reading this, I thought of how so many things are erased from history because of evil people, like terrorists in Iraq and Iran blowing up statues and buildings that are thousands of years old to . . . prove a point? It is sickening and sad. This is more of a frustrative post than one of finding a solution. The finality of this crime is just too hard to comprehend. I guess the one question I have in the end is about the idiot’s mother. Why is she not in prison?! She covers up a crime and destroys evidence! Do not give me the excuse of a mother’s love either. She is just as horrible a person as he is. I guess the apple does not fall far from the tree.