Posts Tagged ‘Vermeer theft’

Welcomed Lie

May 13th, 2013

Dave Collins (Saskatchewan Leader-Post) reports that the seventy-six-year-old Robert Gentile, a reputed mobster, has failed a FBI polygraph test when asked if he knew the whereabouts of priceless paintings, including Vermeer’s mid-career Concert, which were stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston in 1990. According to the polygraph expert, there is a 99 per cent chance that Gentile knows something about the heist. Moreover, when Gentile’s house in Manchester, Conn. was searched last year, they found a handwritten list of the stolen paintings, their estimated worth and a newspaper article about the heist a day after it happened.

Frankly, it is hard to understand how happy we should be that the FBI is getting closer to a solution. While it does represent a chance that the painting could be finally recovered, the chances are just good that we will find out it was destroyed.

What do illegally sold prescription drugs, handguns, a shotgun, five silencers, a bulletproof vest, handcuffs, police scanners, brass knuckles, hundreds of rounds of ammunition and homemade dynamite have to do with Vermeer?

May 7th, 2013

Dave Collins* of The Boston Globe reports that the FBI believed that Robert Gentile, convicted of receiving stolen goods, carrying a deadly weapon in a motor vehicle, and possession of illegal firearms, had information on the the half-billion dollars heist from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston in 1990, which included Vermeer’s Concert. FBI officials said earlier this year that they believe they know who stole the paintings, but still do not know where the artworks are. Gentile, 76, has denied knowing anything about the heist but the assistant US Attorney John Durham wrote in his sentencing memo that Gentile has been identified by several people as a member of a Philadelphia crime family. Authorities also searched the Gentile’s property with ground-penetrating radar in an attempt to find the stolen artworks, but did not come up with the paintings.

Please take this news with a grain of salt: I am tiring of reporting “breakthrough” announcements that lead nowhere.

drawn from:
*Dave Collins. “Man FBI tied to art heist faces sentencing.” The Boston Globe. May 07, 2013.

Did the FBI flimflam on the Stewart Gardner case?

March 26th, 2013

After the mainstream press greeted with enthusiasm the FBI’s announcement about the Isabella Stewart Gardner heist (see information directly below), Christopher Dickey of the Daily Beast, takes a closer look and finds optimism may be unwarranted.

Read Dickeys article here.

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.


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.

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.


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:

see CNN story:

*see New York Times coverage:

Gangsters and Vermeer: Will we ever see Vermeer’s stolen Concert again? Perhaps yes.

June 26th, 2011

drawn from the THE SACRAMENTO BEE.

With the arrest Wednesday of notorious Boston crime boss James “Whitey” Bulger, many in the art world are now asking: Could it provide a break in the greatest art heist in American history which included Vermeer’s Concert? 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. Others think he sent the paintings to allies in the Irish Republican Army to use as a bargaining chip. The Gardner Museum had no comment Thursday on the arrest other than a Tweet saying, “Until a recovery is made, our work continues.” Many who have studied the case are similarly skeptical about Bulger’s direct involvement. Last year, investigators in the Gardner case said there was no evidence in the mountains of wiretaps and other records to link Bulger to the crime.

Heirs’ claim for Hitler’s Vermeer painting is rejected by Austrian panel.

March 30th, 2011

An Austrian panel recently rejected a claim for a Vermeer painting by the heirs of a man who sold it to Adolf  Hitler, saying there was no evidence the sale was forced or that the seller was persecuted. Austria’s art restitution panel threw out the argument by the heirs of Jaromir Czernin that Hitler’s acquisition amounted to a “sale under duress” and should be nullified. The panel instead recommended that Austria keeps the painting. “There is no reason to assume that the sale of  The Art of Painting by Jaromir Czernin to Adolf Hitler was an invalid transaction,” the panel said in a statement on its website.

Read Randol Schoenberg’s arguments in favor of the restitution of Vermeer’s Art of Painting to Helga Conrad, the step-daughter of Jaromir Czernin-Morzin.

March 17th, 2011


Will the Vienna Kunthistorisches lose its Vermeer?

March 16th, 2011

Friday March 18, the Austrian art restitution advisory committee will meet to discuss the ownership of the most important work of art still disputed in the aftermath of WWII, Vermeer’s Art of Painting. The case is not closed in favor of the Viennese art institution. Randol Schoenberg, the heavy-weight Los Angeles attorney who represents Helga Conrad, the step-daughter of Jaromir Czernin-Morzin  who in turn sold the work to Hitler, has litigated several prominent Nazi-looted art cases., including Republic of Austria vs. Altmann.  Schoenberg won the return of five paintings by Gustav Klimt valued at over $300 million.

Read an article by Randol Schoenberg here.

The painting’s afterlife in cluding the Czernin case.

in a nutshell (source: Wikipedia):

After the Nazi invasion of Austria, top Nazi officials including Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring attempted to acquire the painting. It was finally acquired from its then owner, Count Jaromir Czernin by Adolf Hitler for his personal collection at a price of 1.65 million Reichsmark through his agent, Hans Posse on November 20, 1940.[7] The painting was rescued from a salt mine at the end of World War II in 1945, where it was preserved from Allied bombing raids, with other works of art.

The Americans presented the painting to the Austrian Government in 1946, since the Czernin family were deemed to have sold it voluntarily, without undue force from Hitler. It is now the property of the State of Austria.

In August 2009 a request was submitted by the heirs of the Czernin family to Austria’s culture ministry for the return of the painting. A previous request was submitted in 1960s however it was  “rejected on the grounds that the sale had been voluntary and the price had been adequate.” A 1998 restitution law which pertains to public institutions has bolstered the family’s legal position.

New push to recover Vermeer’s stolen Concert

March 16th, 2010

In the early morning hours of March 18, 1990, two men dressed as Boston police officers talked their way into the Gardner museum, bound two guards, and stole artwork valued at $500 million, including three Rembrandts,  Vermeer’s  Concert and five sketches by Degas.

The identity of the thieves and the whereabouts of the artwork remain a mystery. Two decades after a pair of thieves dressed as Boston police officers pulled off  the biggest art heist in history, the FBI is trying to stir up new leads with two billboards on Boston-area freeways that promise a $5 million reward.

The FBI has also resubmitted DNA samples for updated testing, the Associated Press reports.

The Gardner museum is offering the $5 million reward.

Gail Marcinkiewicz, a spokeswoman for the FBI in Boston, said Clear Channel Outdoor  began running an FBI poster yesterday on two of its digital for more information. The billboards are on I-93 in Stoneham and I-495 in Lawrence.

He said the FBI poster seeking information on the Gardner theft will probably remain on the billboards for at least four weeks. He estimated that 117,000 people pass by the Stoneham billboard and about 81,000 pass by the one in Lawrence daily.

The current state of the Art of Painting

January 5th, 2010

Following the claims (September 2008)  of the heirs of Jaromir Czernin concerning the ownership of  The Art of Painting by Johannes Vermeer, the Kunsthistorische Museum of Vienna has launched a web page to inform those interested in the current state of discussion. Here is the link:


Get background information at the NGA study, The Art of Painting: The Painting’s Afterlife

Get a review of current events at Restitution And Remorse by Natascha Eichinger on the Vienna Review.