Law and Conversation

August 27, 2010

Thieves, plunderers, and musicians

The Chicago Tribune reports on a happy ending, with the aid of the newspaper’s Problem Solver column, for a violist whose prized instrument was stolen more than ten years ago.  As columnist Jon Yates wrote, Northwestern University law professor Robert Bennett recited blackletter law that a thief cannot convey good title to stolen property.

The old saw, “Possession is nine tenths of ownership,” can trump the law when it comes to repatriation of property stolen decades or centuries ago, as Colin Woodard shows in his article, “The War Over Plunder: Who Owns Art Stolen in War?” from The Quarterly Journal of Military History.  Many treasures are simply of unknown provenance, including many artifacts held by museums:  their origins and creators may be undisputed, but what happened after their creation and the paths they took to get to the museums where they now reside are often murky, if not impossible to ascertain.  One famous example of museum property whose rightful ownership is bitterly disputed is the Elgin Marbles, in the possession of the British Museum since the early 19th century.  You can read more about that controversy here, here, and here.

The stolen viola’s rightful owner spoke movingly in Yates’s article about what her instrument meant to her.  Two other books that illustrate why, to a musician, just any instrument won’t do are Vikram Seth’s “An Equal Music” and Perri Knize’s “Grand Obsession.”

About these ads

3 Comments »

  1. ‘Dull is the eye that will not weep to see
    Thy walls defaced, thy mouldering shrines removed
    By British hands, which it had best behoved
    To guard those relics ne’er to be restored.
    Curst be the hour when from their isle they roved,
    And once again thy hapless bosom gored,
    And snatch’d thy shrinking gods to northern climes abhorred!’

    Lord Byron

    Comment by Andrew Petcher — January 8, 2011 @ 1:37 pm | Reply

    • So apt! Thanks so much for these words from Lord Byron, Andrew.

      Comment by Helen Gunnarsson — January 8, 2011 @ 1:44 pm | Reply

  2. [...] think of what we’d like to read or draw up our reading or book group lists.  Andrew Petcher’s comment on my post about the Elgin Marbles, quoting “Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage,” Lord Byron’s [...]

    Pingback by Read This: Poetry « Law and Conversation — January 10, 2011 @ 12:04 am | Reply


RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

The Rubric Theme. Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 36 other followers

%d bloggers like this: