Many of the most notorious art thefts in past decades bear him out and illuminate a strange disconnect between the enduring mystique of art theft and the reality of its perpetrators. The theft in Vienna in 2003 of a gold-plated saltcellar made by Benvenuto Cellini, valued at $60 million, was traced to a 50-year-old alarm-systems specialist with no criminal record. The police, who caught him after he tried to ransom the sculpture, called him a “funny guy” who had decided to take the Cellini more or less spontaneously. A divorcé who lived alone, he kept the sculpture under his bed for two years.
The newspapers report today that the fellow who stole the only remaining piece in gold by Benvenuto Cellini was caught Yes, and it was because he was traced through a cell phone text message! For three years, he held onto the treasure, valued at $60 million, and tried to ransom it for millions of dollars. Now it is back where it should be in the museum for all to see. Cellini was an artistic genius, a master of La Maniera, or the Mannerist style that came after the late Renaissance achievments of Michelangelo and others. Some don’t like his stuff, think it’s weird and, well…stylized, but I do. The piece in question was a salt cellar, that is, a table accessory to hold salt during meals. And what a piece!
Cellini is also known for his autobiography, a violent romp through the late Renaissance filled with bragging, lying, deadly duels, and animated by his conviction that he was the greatest artistic gift to the world since…just about ever. To hear him tell it, he singlehandedly defended Rome against the German invaders
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