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Stolen Art – Recovered & Lost Treasures
Not only is stolen art a financial loss to an individual or institution, but a great loss to the public at large. I’ll explain the reasons why and cite some examples such as the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum heist in 1990.
Stolen art is big business as Interpol states that art theft is third to drugs and arms dealing as illicit activities.
The largest art theft in American history (and perhaps the most famous) remains unsolved. In 1990 the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, MA was robbed of paintings by some of the most recognized artists in the world: Vermeer, Rembrandt, and Manet.
The FBI has offered a $5 million reward for the safe recovery of the paintings (in good condition) from the ISGM art heist.
Some of the artwork stolen from the ISGM are:
Johannes Vermeer’s "The Concert" (1664-1667)
Rembrandt Harmensz van Rijn’s "A Lady and Gentleman in Black" (1633)
Rembrandt’s "Storm on the Sea of Galilee" (1633)
Edouard Manet's "Chez Tortoni" (1878-1880)
It must be noted that the current value of these paintings is considered "priceless."
Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum owns four paintings by Johannes Vermeer. They include: "The Milkmaid," "Woman in Blue Reading a Letter," "The Little Street," and "The Love Letter."
In 1971, "The Love Letter" was stolen from the Fine Arts Museum in Brussels, where it was on loan from the Rijksmuseum. The thieves held the painting for ransom; at which time it was stored under a bed and suffered damage.
The ransom was not paid; the painting was recovered, and it now hangs in its rightful home in Amsterdam.
Although Napoleon Bonaparte was a brilliant military strategist, he was an art thief (for the sake of the French people, of course). He removed 500+ paintings and sculptures from the Vatican, sending them to Paris.
It has been said that the Egyptology department at the Louvre was founded on Napoleon’s stolen art, after having occupied Egypt.
In 2003, Leonardo da Vinci’s "Madonna with Yarnwinder" was stolen from the Drumlanrig Castle in Scotland, during the day. Valued at $65 million, the painting was snatched by two men posing as tourists.
This case, the largest art theft in the UK, took an interesting turn as it was recovered in 2007 at a law firm in Glasgow. The solicitor and other accomplices attempted to (unsuccessfully) extort money from the owner of the Leonardo.
Sadly, the art collector died one month before "Madonna with Yarnwinder" was returned.
In 2014, Leonardo’s painting was again loaned to the National Gallery of Scotland.
From reality to fiction, villian Palmer Cortlandt (played by James Mitchell) on the soap opera "All My Children" was accused by government agents of possessing stolen Nazi paintings. He was able to plea bargain his way out of charges, even considered faking his own death, thereby escaping with the artwork. Only on TV!
You can own a giclee print of Rembrandt's "Storm on the Sea of Galilee," one of the paintings stolen from the ISGM.
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