New Exhibit: Stolen Art

September 5, 2014

It was 3:00 PM on an early June afternoon. Smiley was 49 years old, married, and the father of a five-year old boy.  He was standing in the first-floor lobby of Yale University’s Beinecke Library in New Haven, CT, but he lived in the town of Chilmark, MA, a seaside community on Martha’s Vineyard. Chilmark, incorporated in 1694, is one of North America’s oldest permanent settlements.  But the town was a bit too far south to appear on the map Smiley was about to hand over to the officer, which only went as far as Cape Cod.  Besides, the map had been composed 80 years before the town of Chilmark officially existed.

When the map left Forbes Smiley’s possession that day, it was the first step in a repatriation effort.  Known to have stolen more than 100 separate maps from Yale, Harvard, the British Library, and others from among our most important cultural repositories, Smiley … was caught because dozens of easy thefts from libraries had allowed him to become careless.

-Taken from Art and Crime, 155-56 (Noah Charney, ed., 2009).

The foreign and international collection at the Yale Law Library has a new exhibition highlighting the materials available on comparative art law.  “Stolen Art” represents materials taken from antiquity to modern day, ranging from Jewish property stolen during The Holocaust to maps stolen from Yale’s own Beinecke Library.  The display case is located on L1 of the Law Library, as are a team of reference librarians who specialize in foreign and international legal research.

photo credited to the Blanton Museum of Art

For a representative list of titles consulted for the display, click here

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