Five Vermeer thefts

December 5th, 2013
thieves

What do the five people on the left have in common? They are theives. To be precise…Vermeer theives.

The more of I have learned about art theft, the less it interests me. Just the same, I thought it was time to cover the five twentieth-century thefts of Vermeer paintings for the Essential Vermeer. One page for every Vermeer theft and one page for art theft in general.

There is little glamour involved. Forget gentlemen aesthetes who steal art as a sophisticated diversion—art is stolen principally by criminals who use stolen works of art for collateral in drug deals.

Of the five stolen Vermeers, only one has not been recovered. It could easily have rotted by now, although art thieves generally take care to hide and conserve their booty: it may eventually may allow them to strike a deal with police if they are caught.

The first three Vermeer paintings were stolen by individuals who thought of themselves as idealists. Depending on where one’s heart is, one thief could be called a loner. Depending on one’s political orientation, the other thief, who most likely headed two separate Vermeer thefts, could be called a terrorist. The most recent two thefts were the “work” of thugs, one, a brutal underworld Irish gangster, the other someone who has not been captured but whose name is known (only) to the FBI.

So if you like to get into the criminal mind, there plenty to chew on. If not, hold off. I am working on a study of how Vermeer influenced his contemporaries (no great surprises, he really didn’t).

Naturally, let me know how I can make it better.

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