The Concert, c. 1664, by Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer, Isabella Stewart Gardner’s first major acquisition, was stolen in 1990 and remains missing. It depicts a man and two women performing music, with the man shown from the back seated in a red chair, which gives him a mood that is a bit like Mars wearing a shoulder belt and a sword. Will he turn and be protector or warrior seeking spoils?
The story I really want to tell this week is about the early 20th century American socialite and art collector Isabella Stewart Gardner, so I’m going to try to connect it to what’s happening in the stars!
Isabella Stewart Gardner was known as a brilliant and unconventional patron of the arts, and this week marks the 94th anniversary of her death on July 17, in 1924, at the age of 84.
In 1899, she built a gallery in Boston that was an imitation of a 15th century Italian villa and she housed it with a terrific collection, including works by Vermeer, Rembrandt, Degas.
Isabella eventually turned over the gallery to the public, but not without the stipulation that everything must be permanently maintained as she had arranged it: nothing was to be added, removed or rearranged.
Then, in 1990, two men disguised as police officers, entered the building, allegedly responding to a distress call, tied up the security guards and stole over $500 million worth of art ~ the largest-value recorded art heist in history.
After 28 years, the case remains unsolved, and a $10 million reward is being offered. And here’s where I will attempt to tie this into what’s happening in the sky:
If you look southeast around 11 pm this week, you’ll see the planet Mars, so bright that it’s even outshining Jupiter because it’s now over 100 million miles closer to us than its average distance. Mars is historically known as the warrior, so the question I have as the red planet blazes brilliantly through our sky is this: Does Mars come as a warrior armed for battle seeking his spoils, or as the warrior in his role as guardian and protector? At the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, such discernment would have secured over $500 million worth of art! As it stands, empty frames remain hanging in her gallery where the art would be, both in homage to Isabella’s desire for things to remain untouched, and as placeholders for the art’s potential return.
You can hear my radio segment about this story at this link.