Thursday, May 5, 2016

Risk: Stolen Gardner Museum Masterpieces Probably Destroyed

The author, James Ratcliffe, is director of recoveries & general counsel at the Art Loss Register, London
From Apollo Magazine:

Why the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum’s stolen art may never be found
The Storm on the Sea of Galilee (1633), Rembrandt's only known seascape
The Storm on the Sea of Galilee (1633), Rembrandt’s only known seascape

This week, the FBI searched the home of elderly Boston mobster Robert Gentile for a third time, seeking clues as to the whereabouts of 13 artworks stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum over 25 years ago. The circumstances of the original loss are so well known that they do not need repeating, but the latest news has prompted a flurry of new publicity around the ongoing investigation.

Hopes of prosecuting the thieves who broke into the museum are long gone, even though the FBI believes it has identified the perpetrators. It is clear, though, that the FBI, the local police, staff at the museum, and the public at large have not yet given up hope of recovering the 11 pictures, Chinese vase and Napoleonic finial that were taken.

The US Attorney’s Office has made clear that it will consider offering immunity from criminal prosecution if the paintings are returned, and for some time a reward of $5 million has been available for information that leads to the recovery of the stolen items. Despite this incentive, the works, valued according to the FBI at around $500 million, are still missing.

The public and media speculation surrounding the investigation of Mr Gentile’s former home, which included the excavation of his lawn, reflects this hope that the pictures can still be found. But it is time to reflect on the possibility that this might never happen – and perhaps to start questioning the resources that are being devoted to the search.

What has transpired in the case of these pictures perfectly demonstrates why, for the thieves or those now holding them, such artworks have no value. They are simply too well known, too recognisable, to be sold – and the mere possession of them will have become a millstone around someone’s neck. Who could possibly approach an auction house or dealer with Rembrandt’s Storm on the Sea of Galilee (1633) without expecting to feel the full force of the law within minutes? Indeed, who could even allow another person to catch a glimpse of the painting, when revealing its location might lead to a $5 million reward for the viewer, and a prison sentence for the holder – the length of which would doubtless reflect the scale of the search for the artworks?...MUCH MORE

HT: Art History News
At the museum "Thirteen Works: Explore the Gardner's Stolen Works"

New Video May Show $500 Million Gardner Heist Perps
What does Whitey Bulger know about the 1990 Gardner Museum art heist?

Possibly also of interest:
Duveen, The Greatest Salesman in the World: Isabella Stewart Gardner, Bernard Berenson and the Boston Connection Pt. IV

The courtyard of Mrs. Gardner's home, now the museum and site of the $500 million art theft