Stuart George reviews "Stealing Rembrandts: The Untold Stories of Notorious Art Heists" (Palgrave Macmillan, 2011) by Anthony M. Amore and Tom Mashberg in the Spring/Summer 2012 issue of The Journal of Art Crime. Mr. George is an award-winning writer, consultant and specialist in wine. Mr. Amore is the security director for The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. Mr. Mashberg is a Boston-based investigative journalist.
Although over the last two decades or so other artists have overwhelmed his once vaunted prices, Rembrandt remains an iconic figure. Certainly, he is well known to thieves who were unable to resist gunning for works stored in galleries with negligible defense against robbery. Rembrandt’s 1632 portrait of Jacob de Gheyn III has the dubious honor of being the “most oft-stolen painting in the world”. As an International Herald Tribune headline once declared (with uncharacteristic wit), “Rembrandt Needed a Night Watchman.”
Authors Amore and Mashberg — the former the head of security at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum and the latter an award-wining investigative reporter — explain how media hype of record prices can attract the attention of thieves. They cite the Goldschmidt sale at Sotheby’s in 1958 as the “triggering event” for high art prices that led to criminal interest in art. Three years later Rembrandt’s Aristotle Contemplating the Bust of Homer became, at $2.3 million, the then most expensive painting ever sold. Doubtless, potential raiders noticed this.