May 10, 2012

Bloodhounds, beagles, and a ferret search mobster's backyard for famous paintings.

The paintings by Rembrandt, Vermeer, Degas and Manet are worth more than a half-billion dollars.

The mobster's wife says "They’re treating him like a dog." A dog. Not a ferret.

A neighbor said that if Gentile had buried a half-billion-dollar’s worth of art in his backyard, “there would have been scuttlebutt... Things get around, no matter how tight lipped you are.”

Here's some background on that art heist (which happened in 1990):

Investigators believe the first nabbed was Rembrandt's iconic "Storm on the Sea of Galilee," measuring about 5-by-4 feet and dating to 1633. The frame was laid on the floor where one of the thieves neatly sliced it from its frame.

Next was "Landscape with an Obelisk" by Govaert Flinck. Other stolen masterpieces included a second Rembrandt also cut from its frame, "A Lady and Gentleman in Black" from 1633.

The most valuable piece was Vermeer's "The Concert," an oil painting measuring about 2 1/2-by-2 feet from 1660 - one of only 36 known works by the Dutch master and valued at more than $250 million...

A Rembrandt self-portrait from 1629 - one of the museum's most valuable paintings - was removed from the wall, but then left untouched while one of the crooks patiently unscrewed and removed from its frame a tiny Rembrandt etching slightly larger than a postage stamp....

After the heavier works of art were removed from the walls, the thief in charge - possibly the older of the two - might have let the other thief take what he wanted.

Amore believes the second thief found his way to a nearby gallery, lifting smaller Degas drawings of horses while passing up more valuable works of art including one by the Italian painter Botticelli.

The thieves also tried to remove a flag of Napoleon's First Regiment from its frame before giving up and making off with a bronze finial in the shape of an eagle from atop the flag - ignoring more valuable letters with Napoleon's signature.

Then came a final puzzle.

The thieves found their way to a gallery on the first floor, again passing more valuable works of arts, to seize a "Chez Tortoni," a Manet painting of a man in a top hat and a departure from the Dutch paintings - all without triggering a motion detector.

"If we ever speak to the thieves, which is secondary, I would like to say, 'Why did you take that? Why did you pass by the Raphael?'" Amore said.

24 comments:

Bob Ellison said...

They talked about Obama like a dog, too. "Woof, woof! He's gonna eat us!"

Mitchell said...

Those paintings should have made their way to Saudi Arabia a long time ago.

bagoh20 said...

Two posts in a row on weasels? Obsessed?

bagoh20 said...

Make that 3 in a row.

rehajm said...

Still sets the record for the largest single property theft in history. It always struck me how apparently ham handed the theft was. Either the work of low level hoods without a brain between them- typical of the bank/armored car robbers in Boston at the time, or someone brilliant enough to masquerade as such...

I say the dogs spend the day hunting the ferret, and the ferret discovers where the garbage cans are...

R. Chatt said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Pastafarian said...

They made off with a half-billion dollars in stuff, and people are criticizing their thieving? Tough crowd.

I wouldn't have thought of necessarily taking a Vermeer or Botticelli. I've heard of Degas and Manet and Rembrandt, so I probably would have grabbed those too. If they'd had any Monet or Picasso (who I really don't like), I would have grabbed those and walked right past the Raphael.

I'm not sure how much research you should do into the value of your targets before pulling such a heist. This was in 1990, in the internet's infancy; had they used the internet for research, they would probably have left some sort of trail. Had they contacted some expert, they would probably have had to kill him afterward.

I'd say these guys did pretty good. They made off with a half-billion dollars and got away with it.

R. Chatt said...

If they were buried underground they'd be mulch by now unless he built an underground vault with climate control. That's why Hitler stored his art heists in the salt mines. Surprised the cops don't know that. 

wiki-- Germany "began storing the artworks in salt mines and caves for protection from Allied bombing raids. These mines and caves offered the appropriate humidity and temperature conditions for artworks."
Eisenhower, Bradley, and Patton inspect looted artwork

Pastafarian said...

By the way -- you see that deleted comment just above mine? That might have been the thieves, telling all of the critics to stuff it; and then they thought better of it.

ndspinelli said...

bagoh20, When one is posting about pols it's tough not to have weasels also on your mind.

I sometimes read the Cape Cod paper but like the Vineyard Gazette better. The Indians on the Vineyard are thumbing their noses @ the local patricians and the guv and are going to open a casino. I lolve it! Their reservation is @ the tip of the Vineyard called Gay Head. It is the most beautiful part of the island. James Taylor's brother has a very nice B&B called the Outermost Inn near Gay Head. The Gazette is just a good ole fashioned New England newspaper. The Litchfield County Times is another.

NotquiteunBuckley said...

The couldn't sell them. Too risky.

Nobody laughed at the end of it all, seeing the worthless, except for aesthetic value of course, artwork they traded their lives for.

The tragicomedy is the artwork cost them their lives and in that sense was invaluable, yet they couldn't sell the paintings without crippling paranoia, rendering them much worse than worthless.

Now Bill Buckley, different from this in many ways, risked many years in prison but he did it in order to help the friend of a friend.

Hearing about someone suffering in commie Cuba, Bill had $50,000 worth of medicine sent to the inflicted, and he did within 48 hours of hearing the story.

Bill, risking reputation for an altruistic and Christian goal of helping his fellow man in need, surely received many gifts in return for his mindset of abundance, whereas the thieves, well...

traditionalguy said...

It may be a Antique Road Show's cast and crew that got lost.

Carnifex said...

Hah! These guys were pikers...You wanna' see theft, go down to the LA county DMV one day. Am I right Bagoh? Not even going to mention the US IRS.

bagoh20 said...

"You wanna' see theft, go down to the LA county DMV one day. Am I right Bagoh?"

That's a work of art of where they tenderize you with a few hours of sublime torture before picking your pocket and forcing a bad photo of you into your wallet and sending you out into the world.

bagoh20 said...

The security measures were clearly useless, but all the museum had to do was hang a number of velvet Elvis's, and Last Supper renditions to overload them before they got to the hoity toity stuff.

edutcher said...

Get Lizzie Warren.

Bet she's the best tracker in the Cherokee tribe since Dan'l Boone's pal, Mingo.

rhhardin said...

There's apparently an art bubble.

dbp said...

The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum is well worth a visit if you ever happen to have a free day in Boston.

The value of the stolen art only accentuates the value of what is still there. What was taken were a handful of masterpieces among room after room.

lemondog said...

"You wanna' see theft, go down to the LA county DMV one day.

Your thoughtless omission slights our talented Congress Critters

First, here’s what the government spends per average working days and hours of government employees, assuming they actually work their full hours, which they don’t. Here are the statistics:

Total this year $4,000,000,000,000 4 TRILLION!!
Per month $333,333,333,333 $300 Billion!
Per work day $20,000,000,000 20 Billion!
Per work hour $2,500,000,000 2.5 Billion!
Per work minute $41,666,667 41 Million
Per work second $694,444 2/3 of a Million!

It has been proven, by the way, that light can not travel faster than $100,000 per second… Einstein’s equation.

Eric said...

I'd say these guys did pretty good. They made off with a half-billion dollars and got away with it.

Bah. This kind of stuff is just too hot. How do you actually get rid of paintings any art fan would recognize on sight? I wouldn't be at all surprised if it was buried somewhere or behind the drywall in someone's living room. Once word gets out you're looking for buyers it's off to the hoosegow.

rehajm said...

I'd say these guys did pretty good. They made off with a half-billion dollars and got away with it.

Yah, you'll never have a career as a fence. In stolen art terms, these things are only a couple steps removed from trying to sell a pinched Mona Lisa. Every stolen art registry has the works front and center- nobody would touch them. At best, you'd have to have some cat-stroking Dr. Evil somewhere willing to pay you a million bucks so he could hang the stuff in his lair, but then why not go for the best of the best? The thieves would have been better off knocking over an antiques store. Most likely they're sitting in a PVC tube in Mr. French's basement.

Palladian said...

Thank God they didn't find the paintings buried in the yard. If they had, it probably would have meant that they'd have been irreparably damaged.

Rusty said...

Perhaps they weren't shopping for value. Perhaps they were filling orders.

Ann Althouse said...

They could be sold to a very rich recluse who wanted to enjoy them in private. Perhaps some foreign character in a rogue place.