Visily Romani is what Ally Carter, this book's author, calls a Chelovek Pseudonima. We googled it, binged it, and asked our retired gangster uncle about this phrase, but we think this is made-up. Man, that's a good phrase though, isn't it?
It sounds all Russian and real. And Russians know real.
The main point of Visily Romani in Heist Society is that he's not a real person. Well, he is, but that's not his real name. And maybe he's not just one person, but many people. As Uncle Eddie says, "He is no one; he is everyone" (37.47).
Allegedly these Chelovek Pseudominas are fake names (a.k.a. pseudonyms) that are passed down through generations of thieves. If you use one, you better be a master at your game. The thieving game is all about honor and respect, you see.
Maybe we all have a bit of Visily Romani in us. We wouldn't be surprised if Kat ended up doing jobs under the name of Visily Romani one day. Like Kat, whoever is using Visily's name—Uncle Eddie? Kat's presumed-dead mother? Joaquin Phoenix?—has a conscience.
So, we think Visily Romani symbolizes mystery, and morality's many shades of grey. He's kind of like the Robin Hood of the art thieving world—more legend than person, more concept than man (or woman).
Girl Praying to Saint Nicholas
Patron Saint of Stealing Stuff
Out of all of the fictional paintings Kat recovers from the Henley, Girl Praying to Saint Nicholas is the one most chock-full of symbolic value. You could cut it with a knife. But please, if you ever discover that this thing is real, don't cut it with a knife. It could be worth a whole lot of money, kiddos.
Girl Praying to Saint Nicholas is the one masterpiece not definitively attributed to a known master artist. Ally Carter, the author, often name-drops Vermeer or Rembrandt, but we're not given any answers. And that's not the only thing we don't know about this painting. The Girl Praying to Saint Nicholas could be a painting of anybody.
Carter describes the painting's subject as "a girl with straight dark hair and a heart-shaped face, with a petite frame and a devout posture as she kneeled, praying to Nicholas, the patron saint of thieves" (37.54). Hm, sound familiar? This image kind of resembles our mental picture of Kat.
So you could understand this painting to represent our girl Kat—mysterious, awesome, and changeable. Every time you think you understand her, she does something unexpected…
A Message from Saints and Thieves
This is the painting that Visily Romani takes from the Henley and delivers to Kat at the end of the book. It's meant to be a message, but what is the message? That Kat should pray to Saint Nicholas for help in getting all kinds of loot? Not so fast.
It seems that Saint Nicholas "Induced some thieves to return their plunder. This explains his protection against theft and robbery, and his patronage of them—he's not helping them steal, but to repent and change."
So we're guessing that Visily's message for that Kat is that she should give up her thieving ways. Wait, what? Why would some famous, unnamed thief recommend she give up thieving? Does he or she want Kat to repent for her own good, or just so there's less competition in the thieving world?
These are questions that can't be answered in art history class. But it is clear to us that this painting can be understood to represent the art of thievery itself.