Saturday, August 15, 2009


Guillaume Apollinaire was a poet who led, one might say, a very adventurous life. Born Gulielmo de Kostrowitzky, he later changed his name in order to further his literary career. Indeed the name Apollinaire, with its resonances with the Greek god Apollo, strongly draws one to his oeuvre.

Apollinaire spent a period of time growing up near a gambling resort, and this may have influenced his later forays into the world of Parisian literature. He was to develop an important friendship with Picasso, and it was during this time that Apollinaire was to encounter his most famous scandal.

Apollinaire had steadily been gaining a reputation as a fine and original poet, and wrote on art and artists for a number of journals. His interest in art was almost his undoing. He had employed a secretary to help with his literary projects. This man turned out to be an art thief. He gave two statues to Picasso, who bought them unknowing of their origin. They had in fact been stolen from the Louvre.

Co-incidentally, and tragically, a few years after this incident, a separate theft took place at the Louvre. On this different occasion someone had stolen the Mona Lisa. As one could imagine, it was quite a scandal.

It came to the attention of the authorities that Apollinaire had recently been associated with objects de art stolen from the Louvre. Apollinaire was subsequently arrested and interrogated in relation to the Mona Lisa theft. It become clear that Apollinaire was no thief, and after informing the police of the identity of his secretary, he was released.

The scandal was however very large. Apollinaire was one of only a few people in France to be arrested for the crime, and his name was dragged through the press around the country, and indeed around the world. It was to have quite an impact on Apollinaire, and in many ways established his broader fame as a poet.

But it was to leave a deep scar on his life, and even after he was acquitted, people still were quite accusative and derisive of him. Sometimes the price of fame can indeed be high.

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