Thursday, November 29, 2012

I spy

The second episode in our series When art goes to the movies came out back in 2008 and featured Goya's The Duke of Wellington. It had been stolen from the National Gallery in London and turned up as a prop in the 1962 James Bond movie Dr. No.

Now 50 years later the stolen-painting story has been revived for Skyfall. This time the feature item is Modigliani's 1919 canvas Woman With A Fan stolen from the Musée d'Art Moderne in Paris in May 2010 and making a brief appearance in the villain's Shanghai apartment. In good news for Modigliani collectors it turns out to be bullet proof as there is no sign of damage after a direct hit with a high-powered rifle. 
Bond is also up-cultured with a visit to the National Gallery in London (where he gazes pensively at Turner’s The Fighting Temeraire. This ship fought at Trafalgar and is seen on its way to the knacker’s yard in one of Skyfall's many I’m-a-metaphor moments. In this case let us consider the demise of old-school spy craft. Back in 2005 The Fighting Temeraire was voted ‘greatest painting in a British art gallery’ and for Trivial Pursuit fans there's even an Ian Fleming moment; he grew up in a house on Cheyne Walk that once belonged to J M W Turner.
Other art references in Skyfall? OK, there’s a fallen ‘socialist-style’ statue on the Japanese island of Hashima that serves as the villain’s lair, and it turns out that the middle name of Bond’s mother was Delacroix. Slim pickings.

Images: Left, Modigliani's Woman With A Fan. Right top, James Bond at the National Art Gallery (behind him Joseph Wright’s An Experiment on a Bird in the Air Pump (left) and Mr and Mrs William Hallett by Thomas Gainsborough). Right middle, The Fighting Temeraire by J M W Turner and bottom right broken socialist sculpture prop thing