Just like in “Skyfall”, some notable pieces of artwork have once again found their way back onto the silver screen in “Spectre”. Looking closely at the very end of the End Credits of the film, they are mentioned by name. One particular painting even made its second appearance! Do you remember the scene in “Skyfall” where Bond fights killer Patrice who has just shot a rich art buyer? The expressionist painting he was looking at was “Woman with a fan” by Clemente Modigliani.
Italian born painter Modigliani completed the 100 x 65 cm painting in 1919, shortly before his death at 35 of tubercular meningitis in January 1920. The fact that the painting was stolen from the Museum of Modern Art in Paris in May 2010 and supposedly ended up in China, made it the perfect piece of artwork for use in a Bond film. Surprisingly, it pops up again in the latest Bond film “Spectre” although only a handful of cinemagoers and fans noticed it due to the camera angle and lighting of the scene. At 1:40:43, you can see it in Madeleines room in Ernst Stavro Blofelds desert hideout.
It wouldn’t be the first time that a stolen painting added a whiff of mystery to a Bond film. In the very first one, “Dr. No” (1962), James Bond is amazed to see the portrait of the Duke of Wellington, painted by Francisco José de Goya in 1814. The painting had been stolen from the National Gallery by a 60 year-old amateur thief in London just before filming began. Production Designer Ken Adam had contacted the National Gallery in London to obtain a slide of the picture, painting the copy over the course of the weekend, prior to filming commencing on the Monday. This proved the point, that villain Dr. No had the criminal power to obtain priceless works of art just to decorate his lair. Since “Woman with a fan” appeared in both “Skyfall” and “Spectre”, it gives the impression that villain Blofeld is connected to the assassination plot that happened in Shanghai. But as we know, Blofeld was behind quite a lot.
When Bond enters his room in Blofelds hideout, we see another painting over the bed on the right side: “Le pigeon aux petit pois” (The Pigeon with Green Peas) by Spanish painter Pablo Picasso. He finished the 65 cm × 54 cm painting in 1911, at the height of his cubistic period. And now comes the interesting twist: Valued at 23 million euros, the painting was also stolen from the Museum of Modern Art in Paris together with Modiglianis “Woman with a fan” and three other paintings on 20 May 2010. Isn’t that a coincidence?
The five stolen paintings are estimated to be worth just under 100m euros (£86m; $123m) and the art heist is regarded as the biggest since the 1990 theft at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston of a Vermeer, several Rembrandts, Degas and other masterpieces. None of the paintings have been recovered yet. Investigators think that international criminal gangs use art works effectively as a form of currency. For criminals dealing in drugs or weapons, a rolled-up painting is a way of carrying very large amounts of “currency”, even if it is one tenth of the value at auction.
Since two of the paintings stolen in the 2010 heist appear in Blofeld’s hideout in “Spectre”, you simply can’t dismiss the impression that one of the most superb criminal masterminds in the history of the Bond franchise had something to do with it. In that regard, it was a very clever, although hardly noticeable, decision by the Production Design team of “Spectre”.
A third painting, “Number II Tiger – 1949” by Jackson Pollock, is also mentioned in the End Credits of “Spectre” but unfortunately I was not yet able to spot it in the film. The 157.5 x 94.6 cm abstract expressionist painting, currently on display at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C., is discordant and organic, densely layered with a mixture of oil and enamel paint, with colour pouring over the edges of the frame (Pollock rarely stretched his canvases before painting). Different to the other two, this one was not stolen. If you have spotted it in the film, be sure to leave me a comment below!