The 25th Anniversary of the Gardner Heist

The empty frame which once held "Storm on the Sea of Galilee" at the Isabella Stewart Gardener Museum
The empty frame which once held Rembrandt’s “Storm on the Sea of Galilee” at the Isabella Stewart Gardener Museum

25 years ago tonight, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum suffered a devastating loss to its collection. 13 works of art led to a FBI investigation, and a new Federal Criminal provision. But the works themselves are still lost. Today brings a slew of examinations of the theft and the subsequent investigation.

Stephen Kurkjian, an investigative reporter for the Boston Globe, and author of a new work on the theft, has an extended portion of the book at the Boston Globe. He recounts many details of the efforts in 2013 that many speculated would lead to a break in the case: Continue reading “The 25th Anniversary of the Gardner Heist”

O’Donnell on the ‘sightings’ of Gardner thefts

Attorney Nicholas O’Donnell rightly skewers the FBI’s recent media blitz on the so-called “confirmed sightings” of works stolen from the Gardner Museum:

If my skepticism sounds familiar, it is because there was a similar episode last year, when the FBI claimed “with a  high degree of confidence” that it knew who had stolen the paintings.  That story, as has often been the case, was released around the anniversary of the theft (though without mentioned that coincidence).  Richard DesLauriers, the Special Agent in Charge in Boston, said then: “The FBI believes with a high degree of confidence that in the years after the theft, the art was transported to Connecticut and the Philadelphia region, and some of the art was taken to Philadelphia, where it was offered for sale by those responsible for the theft,”

The FBI theory seems to be this: an informant in a Dorchester garage accused Merlino of being involved, and someone else in the same garage knew Gentile, who had some police paraphernalia in his house.  Really?  Put that way, it is pretty clear why the FBI has not arrested anyone or offered more information: it cannot prove any of this.

The FBI said a year ago that it knew who was responsible, but clearly does not want to accuse Gentile directly.  Instead, it is essentially asking the public to connect the fact that Gentile has some relation to Philadelphia, to the uncorroborated offers for sale in an “I’m just saying” sort of way.

The Gardner heist is a civic tragedy in here in Boston.  It struck at one of our most treasured institutions.  I can still picture the full-page headline in the Boston Globe the day that it happened (the Art Law Report was just a gleam in the eye of a local high school student then).  But these recycled stories are not advancing the ball.  If the FBI thinks it has a case against a responsible person, it should move on that information.  If it is simply going to make insinuations, it should stop.

Nicholas O’Donnell, FBI Claims to Have “Confirmed Sightings” of Stolen Gardner Artwork, But Offers Only Stale Information and Conjecture, Art Law Reort (May 22, 2014), http://www.artlawreport.com/2014/05/22/fbi-claims-to-have-confirmed-sightings-of-stolen-gardner-artwork-but-offers

Vermeer's "The Concert"
Vermeer’s “The Concert”

-only-stale-information-and-conjecture/.

The FBI Says it Has Identified Gardner Thieves

Have you seen these works? If so you might be entitled to a $5 million reward…

But the headline makes it seem a recovery is closer at hand than it may be. Every day after St. Patrick’s Day, I’ve come to expect pieces discussing the theft of $500 million worth of art from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.

But today’s stories are a little different. The FBI has used today’s anniversary to “widen the aperature of awareness” of the crime through a press release, webpage, and billboards. They say they know that the art was transported to Connecticut and Philadelphia after the theft. And the FBI even says it knew who the thieves are, though they aren’t releasing that information. What they hope to accomplish is a recovery, and to do that they need a member of the public to come forward with some information. It’s a worthy goal, hopefully the attention will finally secure the return.

Here’s the FBI’s  press release, and here is the special webpage the FBI has created to announce its $5 million reward.

Questions or Comments? Email me at derek.fincham@gmail.com

Vermeer Recovered . . . On the Simpsons

Miracle of harmony and light indeed.  The FBI and U.S. Attorney’s office are are offering unconditional immunity to anyone who helps locate any of the 13 stolen works of art from the Gardner heist. Anyone with information regarding the Gardner Museum theft should contact the Boston FBI office at 1-617-742-5533.

Questions or Comments? Email me at derek.fincham@gmail.com

Gardner Heist 20th Anniversary

The night before   after St. Patrick’s day, early on March 18, 1990, thieves stole 13 works from the Gardner Museum.  The lost works by Degas (including La Sortie de Pesage pictured here), Rembrandt, Vermeer, and Manet were stolen and some were cut from their frames, but were also stolen from the thousands of visitors who have visited the Gardner Museum in these twenty years.

The FBI and U.S. Attorney’s office are re-publicizing their offer of unconditional immunity to anyone who helps locate any of the 13 stolen works of art from the Gardner heist. Anyone with information regarding the Gardner Museum theft should contact the Boston FBI office at 1-617-742-5533.

There have been a slew of details on the theft in recent days, here are a few: 

  • Charles Hill, a former Scotland Yard detective, says art thieves are not that smart and do not deserve the glamour they receive from heists.
  • One of the least interesting items stolen in the infamous Gardner heist could turn over valuable clues.
Questions or Comments? Email me at derek.fincham@gmail.com

18th Anniversary of the Gardner Theft


Today is St. Patrick’s day, which marks the 18th anniversary of the thefts from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. The director of the museum, Anne Hawley repeated the offer that the Museum would pay $5 million for information leading to the recovery of the works. As her statement on Friday said, “the theft of these rare and important treasures of art is a tragic loss to the art world and to society as a whole,” Hawley said in her statement. “Imagine never being able to hear a performance of Beethoven’s Fifth, read Herman Melville’s “Moby Dick,” or listen to a Louis Armstrong jazz piece ever again . . . The loss of these remarkable masterpieces removes a part of our culture essential to our society.”

Pictured here is The Concert, by Vermeer perhaps the most valuable and important of the stolen works.

Questions or Comments? Email me at derek.fincham@gmail.com