Will we ever see Vermeer’s Concert Again? Perhaps…

March 23rd, 2013

Vermeer rarely makes news outside the art world; this Tuesday 19, he did.

concert_LARGE

In a stunning development, the FBI said it believes it knows who was behind one of the most significant art heists in the United States—the Isabella Stewart Gardner 1990 theft of 13 precious works which includes Vermeer’s mid-career interior, The Concert. Can we hope this will lead to the finding of the paintings?

Fingers crossed and read more facts below.

MY STORY:
To be honest, I usually don’t connect with art thefts or art forgeries—I am disconcerted that the Van Meegeren page on my website receives more visits than the catalogue entry of The Concert—but the Boston theft story did draw me in. The Concert was the first Vermeer I ever saw from life.

As a fledging art student, outlandishly decked out with a leather motorcycle jacket, tight pants and worn-out, purple Beatle-boots, I did not understand much the first time I stood in front of it. The standing singer seemed disjointed from the composition (I found out later the pigment used for her dress had degraded) and, to be honest, I am still not on good terms with the gentleman’s turned back and sprawling, spaghetti hair. Too, the area under his chair is fairly cluttered, at least when sized up against the miraculous compositional economy of the Music Lesson. But, I had never dreamed that a flat wall could be so amazingly flat (the walls I had painted always looked like filthy white paint clumsily spread out on canvas to dry) nor that a satin dress could be depicted with such amazing force but at the same time, with such amazing delicacy.

For all its technical imperfections, the je ne sais quoi of this painting is still with me and the day I will see it again, if ever that day ever comes, will be more joyful than when I set eyes on it for the first time as a bewildered but resurrected art student.

THE FACTS:

Thee FBI said Monday it believes it knows who was behind one of the most significant art heists in the United States—the 1990 theft of 13 precious works, once valued at $500 million, from Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. The announcement came on They did not reveal the suspects’ names, but know that “they are members of a criminal organization with a base in the mid-Atlantic states and New England.” Officials are quoted as saying “We vetted it out, we don’t make that kind of announcement lightly.” No information was given of whether they were dead or alive.

The bureau also said it believes the Vermeer’s Concert—including paintings by Rembrandt—was taken to Connecticut and the Philadelphia area and that the thieves unsuccessfully tried to sell some of the artwork in Philadelphia about 10 years ago. The announcement comes on the 23rd anniversary of the theft, which the FBI says is one of the largest property crimes in U.S. history.

Officials did not discuss why they had not arrested the thieves but at times such announcements to try to prompt the suspects into doing something that could lead to their arrest or prompting an innocent person who had seen the paintings into thinking that if the authorities already knew who the thieves were, going to the police would not be ratting them out. *

I am curious to see of the latest FBI report has any connection with the 2011 arrest of the underworld criminal Whitey Bolger (implicated in 19 killings). Rumors have long swirled that Bulger, the head of the city’s powerful Irish American mob at the time, may have played a role, or must have known who did. Some have speculated that he stashed the stolen masterpieces away to use as a “get out of jail free card” if he was ever caught. Robert Wittman, the former head of the FBI’s art squad who helped investigate the Gardner theft, said that “I think there’s a good chance he knows something.”

Another suspect, Robert Gentile, 76, a used-car salesman in Manchester, Conn., was targeted in February 2012. But nothing came of the investigation.

see full coverage and updates on the case at the the FBI website:
http://www.fbi.gov/news/stories/2013/march/reward-offered-for-return-of-stolen-gardner-museum-artwork/reward-offered-for-return-of-stolen-gardner-museum-artwork

see CNN story:
http://edition.cnn.com/2013/03/18/justice/massachusetts-fbi-art-theft/index.html?hpt=hp_t2

*see New York Times coverage:
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/19/us/fbi-says-it-has-clues-in-1990-isabella-stewart-gardner-museum-art-heist.html?pagewanted=1&_r=0

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