Purloined : Titian, The Rest on the Flight into Egypt

25 1/2 x 29 1/8 inches (photo) 23 1/2 x 29 1/8 inches (text) 6 x 7 3/4 inches (introduction text) / 64,5 x 74 cm (photo) 60 x 74 cm (texte) 15 x 20 cm (texte d'introduction)

Introduction On January 6, 1995, a painting by Titian, The Rest on the Flight into Egypt, was stolen from the Marquis of Bath at Longleat House, England. The empty space was filled with a reproduction. I asked the lord of the manor, the guards, and the staff to describe the missing work. On August 22, 2002 The Rest on the Flight into Egypt was found in a plastic bag in a street in suburban London. Text I used to say something like, "And here's the gem of the collection, an early Titian known as The Rest on the Flight into Egypt. And I would allow them to stand and look at it for two or three minutes, sometimes longer. I now say : The gem of the collection was stolen from this room in a burglary earlier this year. There you see a copy. It gives you some indication of its size, but the quality you can't visualize. " So now peoplejust talk about the burglary It was the figure of Mary that caught my eye. Always her first.Then Joseph, then the Christ child, then a tree, and a hill with a rounded tower on top. She was seated, just on the ground, probably on a little grassy knoll. She is looking down, slightly to the right, so part of her gaze would probably have taken in the child, but she was sort of just looking slightly beyond, as well. The gesture was there : yes, I am aware of you, my child, but she is resting her eyes away. Looked as if they'd really had an hard time, couldn't go on any longer, and just sat where they were. Joseph, you could see all of thaht weight going out of his body, he was slightly sort of slumped There's a woman sat down holding her baby, and there's a gentleman sat beside her which I assume is her husband. It's a familial scene, like a picnic. I didn't really form an opinion as to whether she was an attractive woman or not... a very well-built man. The baby does not color it too much, pictorially, too small I don't think you could discern whether she was good-looking or not. He was just a sort of average elderly man. There's nothing hieratic about it; there's that would make you realize that the child wasn't just a child. I think you only realize that the child wasn't just a child. I think you only realize it's th Madonna beacause when you see a naked child and a female figure you're programmed to think that it's a religious painting In the center of the picture is the Madonna. She is not a mawkish, northern Madonna, she is a very Italian Madonna, with very large eyes and very serene face. She is wearing a deep red robe with a bleue mantle, and a very transparent veil just over the black part of her head. And she's cradling the Christ child. She's got her head inclined protectively towards the child. The child is almost whispering in her ear. On the left is Joseph. He's got a most amazingly yellow overmantle, and a sort of dull, greenish-brown robe. The whole thing actually vibrates color There was a light right above it that used to shine onto the picture; you could see that one more than any of the others in the room. It just looked brighter. This particular painting left me quite unmoved. You look at a thing and you see it so often, it doesn't really register in your mind, you just see that it's another part and parcel of Christinaity. Except the price, three million I believe. He had good taste, whoever took it It was about seven million. It's the Holy Family taking a rest under a tree. The Virgin clasps the Infant closely, Joseph is absorbed in his own thoughts. It was more a family painting, not a large painting, a Mum and Dad and baby. It was a lovely little painting, not a large painting that shouts at you. One person could carry it quite easily. It's in my memory since the left but before I'd walk around, and I'd really only glance at it. My idea of it was totally clinical. I was part of a team looking after it I've worked here fifteen years. I saw it thousands of times, I didn't actually touch the painting but ...the frame, very gently brushed out with a soft brush. As far as we're concerned, everything is of equal standing. There are so many paintings in the house, I see every day, although that one was obviously more valued than most - we're talking about figures somewhere up to six million. For the ordinary person like me that's how picture strike It was an oil on panel bought at Christie's in London on June 1, 1878, size 46.3 x 61.5 cm. It was above anything else in the collection. It's a very spare painting, there is none of the trappings, the rigmarole of the stables and shepherds and all that. It's just a small, three piece group, all joined together in love, in the exhaustion of the journey. I go where it used to be, obviously there's nothing there. You can't replace the sheer power of the presence of a picture like that. I'm not clever enough. An empty spot would be better It's something that is needed really to give the visitors an impression of what the original was like, and of course, it's nothing like the original. The reds are redder, the gols are golder... My great-grandfather the Fourth Marquis of bath, brought it back from Italy, around 1880. I would always just sort of feel my Titian as I walked by. I see the ghost of it when I walk by, a feeling of guilt, that I should have been a better custodian. I also miss 5 million pounds The Virgin is typical she's very spiritual, doesn't come over as a personality, but you wouldn't expect her to. I suppose there's about a fifty-fifty chance it'll turn up somewhere. It'll be the prodigal painting that got away and had a little history without us for a while. We'll not kill any fatted cald, but we'll certainly show it with great pleasure It's a very good copy, but I know it's not the real thing, that's the difference. To put it crudely, in terms of the ordinary visitor you cuold fill this house with good reproductions, and most visitors wouldn't notice, and indeed if the Titian was hung pn the banks of the Seine, probably nobody would give it a second glance. The time will come, if we have something special to put up, that I will put that there, but for the time being it is recent history. Therefore it'll be of more relevance to have the missing painting portrayed than something else It's a pity that photocopy's there. It gives the visitors an idea of the size, but not particular something is just not there. You lose most of the communication between you and the artist. It's a very, very pale reflection of the actual painting. It's served its time. The mourning has gone on long enough. Let's get rid of the evidence.

About Sophie Calle

A controversial figure as well as one of France’s leading conceptual artists, Sophie Calle explores her own psychological and emotional terrain in multimedia works, probing ideas of control, freedom, gender, intimacy, and distance in human relationships. Perhaps her most contentious work, Address Book (1983) was inspired by an address book that Calle found on the street, photographed, and sent back to its owner. She then rang the numbers in the book to assemble a portrait of the owner, turning the results into a multimedia installation. For Take Care of Yourself (2007), which was exhibited in the French pavilion at the 2007 Venice Biennale, Calle invited 107 women from various walks of life to interpret and assess a breakup note the artist received in an email. In a range of media including photographic portraits, textual analysis, and filmed performances, women pore over the emotional content of the email; contributions include a clairvoyant’s response, a scientific study, and a child’s fairytale.

French, b. 1953, Paris, France, based in Switzerland

Group Shows on Artsy

2015
Mark My Words, Gemini G.E.L. at Joni Moisant Weyl, New York
2015
The Venetians, Gemini G.E.L. at Joni Moisant Weyl, New York
2015
Icon(s), Maison Particulière, Brussels