I Hope the Gardner Museum Gets the Vermeer Back

Many of you are probably aware of the big art theft that took place at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in 1990. The FBI recently announced that they know who the thieves were. I hope that means the artwork may actually be found and returned.

I went to the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, which is roughly diagonally across the street from the Gardner Museum. I’ve probably posted about this before, but I used to go to that museum a lot, and what I always did at one point during my visit was sit down and stare at their Vermeer (The Concert). Unlike any other painting I’ve ever viewed in a museum, this one was mounted in a frame that is meant to sit on something rather than against the wall, and in this case it sat on top of a desk. A chair was provided and you could actually sit down right down in front of the painting, just inches away, and look at it at eye-level.

I took advantage of this and stared and stared at this painting, becoming intimate in a way that I rarely could with other famous paintings. There was a time when I probably could have recreated this painting from memory, if I had the talent, which I didn’t, but you get my point.

So I took it very personally when this painting was among those stolen. I don’t want to get into a whole self-righteous rant but it, but fuck you, you asshats, whoever stole it and whoever paid them to steal it. Criminals. I mean, most of us have done things we’re not proud of, and we rationalize our actions, but the mindset and character of people who rise to this level of wrong-doing (and much, much worse; rape, murder). How do you live with yourselves?

I saw this yesterday, on a stoop, I forget the block. Am I in pursuit of magic anymore? I guess in some areas I still am. I’m working very hard on a book proposal that I hope will be magical, albeit very darkly magical. I just googled it and this graffiti is the work of these artists.

In Pursuit of Magic

Stacy Horn

I've written six non-fiction books, the most recent is Damnation Island: Poor, Sick, Mad, and Criminal in 19th-Century New York.

View all posts by Stacy Horn →

2 thoughts on “I Hope the Gardner Museum Gets the Vermeer Back

  1. Hi Stacy,
    you know, Sherlock Holmes said that he was distantly related to Vermeer.

    I agree with you that this obviously was a commissioned theft by people who were professional criminals in this area.

    When Joe Pistone was running one of his scams on the mafia, they set up a cover story about an art theft, because it is apparently such a specialized area that no one knows about it except people on the inside.

    The FBI actually has some small number of agents whose specialization is trying to catch art thieves. It would be awfully nice if they could apprehend the people who stole the Vermeer. And it would be even nicer if they could get the painting back.

    Frankly, I doubt that this would happen anytime soon. The painting is probably in some protected private collection of a Russian multimillionaire or some megabucks owner in some other country outside the US.

    To the best of my understanding after reading and conversations with people in law enforcement, most criminals are sociopaths or psychopaths. I’ve been told that we could stop 50% of crime tomorrow simply by keeping dads in the home and keeping recidivists locked up.

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