Ok, it’s not really all that simple or exciting—but it’s more fun this way. See, about 20 years ago, some enterprising burglars with excellent taste broke into Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum disguised as policemen and made off with 13 paintings including three Rembrandts and a Vermeer—a total value of between $250 and $300 million. Not bad for 81 minutes of work. Still considered to be one of the largest and most costly art thefts ever, the caper’s trail has gone a bit cold, but that’s not stopping the FBI from returning to the case with a new DNA study of existing evidence.
On top of using new crime-scene technologies, the FBI is now operating from the assumption that the thieves were locally based. Said George Kelly, the Special Agent assigned to the case, “I am open to any theory, but after doing this for eight years, my feeling is that it was some local guys, a quick score in and out, and they wake up the next morning and they realize that they’ve just committed the art heist of the century… hey can’t sell it. It’s too hot. Taking the theory… to its potential conclusion, now you’ve got these things so what do you do with them? Well, you hold on to them until the heat dies down, and here it is 20 years later, and it’s just as hot.’’ So, that means Vermeer’s lost masterpiece, “The Concert” could be sitting behind a set of rusty skis in some Dorchester garage. As one of only 35 acknowledged Vermeer works in existence, the value of the “Concert” alone is probably well over $100 million, which leaves a very short list of people capable of buying the work and preserving it for private display only. So, if you happen to spend time in the houses of reclusive billionaires or just hang out in Southie Boston a lot, keep an eye out for the “Concert”. Turning canary for the FBI could net you a cool $5 mil.
To follow in the steps of Vermeer legally, pick up a copy of “Art + Travel Europe: Step into the Lives of Five Famous Painters”. To visit the still-empty frames left behind by this crime, go to:
The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum
Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.A.
Images (left to right): “The Concert”, Joannes Vermeer, c. 1664, courtesy of the Gardener Museum, The aftermath of the theft, courtesy of the Gardener Museum.