Vermeer's The Concert

Vermeer's The Concert

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Stolen Art Watch, Underworld Where Icons are Held Art Hostage, Just Musings !!

Severna Park resident publishes book about sensational art heist

By WENDI WINTERS, For The Capital

The closest most of us get to $163 million worth of paint is standing inside a Home Depot.
But an art theft Feb. 10 in Europe, during which four paintings worth a total of $163 million were taken, is a loss to art lovers worldwide.
Such a heist can't happen in the United States, you think?

It could and it did.

Jerome "Jerry" Tuccille, 70, a former resident of New York now living in Severna Park, tells all about a heist years ago.

His story of the theft is entitled "Gallery of Fools: The True Story of a Celebrated Manhattan Art Theft."

Mr. Tuccille is the author of biographys of Donald Trump, and of the Texas Hunt family, of Alan Greenspan and press lord Rupert Murdoch. He's also written his own autobiography "Heretic: Confessions of an Ex-Catholic Rebel," and books about investing and Libertarianism.

Mr. Tuccille has lived quietly in Severna Park with his wife, Marie, for 14 years. His graying hair has been shaved off. Employed as the vice president of communications for a Baltimore financial services firm, he spends his spare time researching his books.

Back in 1969, Mr. Tuccille didn't think much of the headline in The New York Times that blared seven paintings valued at more than $500,000 had been stolen from the Stephen Hahn Gallery on Madison Avenue..

At the time, the gallery owner valued a painting titled "Nympheas" as worth "more than $100,000." That was one of numerous same-titled oil paintings of water lilies that Monet produced from 1900 to 1910.

A few years later, Mr Tuccille would be involved with the stolen paintings, He would stash some paintings under a quilt in his car.

So, Mr. Tuccille nearly had heart-failure when he spotted a Jan, 24, 1975, headline: "Stolen Paintings Picked Up by F.B.I.: Mount Vernon Man Seized on Extortion Charge." He worried that he would be implicated for having possessed the paintings at one point.

For six years, the painting, along with seven others, including a Renoir pinched from the Wally Findlay Gallery on 57th Street in New York City, were stashed in the Bronx basement of Mr. Tuccille's father, a mob wannabe.

The paintings also rested in Mr. Tuccille's own rusting station wagon; under the bed of the mother of one of his mobster cousins; in a New York barn, and, before some were recovered, behind a dumpster in Upstate New York.

Three of the paintings have never turned up again in public.

When Mr. Tuccille learned of the stolen paintings' location in a secret compartment built in the basement of his father's home, he removed them and put them in his station wagon, covered only by a ragged quilt.

Then, he calmly resumed his campaign as his party's candidate for governor of New York.

"The frames on those paintings were great artworks," said Mr. Tuccille. He "possessed" them in 1973 before mobsters broke them apart and rolled the canvases up. "They were handled by thugs with no appreciation for their artistic value," he said bitterly. "They were only aware of the paintings monetary value.

"Taken together, all the paintings would be worth more than $100 million today."

Of his decision to stash the paintings in his family car, Mr. Tuccille asked rhetorically: "Where do you hide these things? We lived in a little apartment. We didn't even have a closet or a dry attic. They sat in my car for at least a week. If I had turned them in, my father would have gone to jail. I didn't want that. I would have had to go into the Witness Protection Program; I didn't want that either. If I sat on them, my cousin, who had mob ties, would have come after me. I handed the artworks back to the thugs. It was the only way to go at the time."

Most of the zany real-life characters in "Gallery of Fools" are dead.

His father is gone, as is Aunt Molly, the mother of Georgie, the mobster. Georgie is 82 now, living in Upstate New York. He eventually went to jail for his involvement in the thefts, as did another mobster, George Daniel Annunziata.

"I sat on the story for 35 years," Mr. Tuccille said. "It was exploding and had to come out. It's a great story. You can't make that up. Like my running for governor - even though at the time it caused a lot of heartache and hardship."

During the quixotic gubernatorial campaign, in addition to sitting on a fortune in artworks, Mr. Tuccille lost his job and saw the fabric of his life unraveling.

In one of the truly funny scenes of the book, he finds a new job, and the beginning of a successful career. Writing books came later.

"Gallery of Fools" was published by iUniverse in February and will be in stores by the end of March. It is currently available at and

Art Hostage comments:

Interesting story and I wonder what parallels can be drawn with the Gardner Art Heist ?

Deep breath,....Well, the theory that the Gardner paintings were stolen by a Boston Cop, an Irish Republican, on the Lam in Boston and two others, followed by the sale to Joe Murray for $300,000, followed by Joe Murray trying to use the Gardner paintings to get an INLA prisoner released, refused by the FBI in Washington, although approved by the Boston Law Enforcement, followed by Joe Murray taking the Gardner paintings to his New Brunswick house for safe keeping, then Whitey Bulger using his FBI connections to track down and have Joe Murray murdered and the blame to be laid at the Joe Murray's Wife's door, who then dies of a Marilyn Monroe style drug overdose, followed by Whitey Bulger sending the Gardner paintings to Ireland to be held by an INLA leader in the West of Ireland. (Phew, bit of mouthful !)

Whitey Bulger is then re-united with the Gardner paintings in Ireland whilst on the lam and posing as a retired doctor, subsequently there is money loaned against the Vermeer for INLA purposes.

The INLA leader dies and Whitey Bulger leaves Ireland, on the advice of the FBI, as Whitey's residence in Ireland is becoming an embarrassment for mainstream Sinn Fein and the IRA, peace process and all that, then, when the Bulger squad arrives from Boston to Ireland, Whitey Bulger has long gone, tipped off.

Now, those with an interest in the Vermeer would like to cash it in for the reward but cannot settle on an methodology to achieve this ????

In steps Art Hostage and provides a clear pathway.

Vermeer deposited in Catholic Church confession box, Priest claims reward, having satisfied himself the returnee is innocent of the original theft and subsequent handling, he is just the returnee.

Alongside the Art Hostage plan we have the usual stings attempts, Golden Hello offers, sting in a long tail attempts etc.

The Da Vinci Madonna recovery last fall has spooked the Underworld and because of the considerable loss of money any further handbacks are being carefully scrutinised.

Speaking of the Da Vinci Madonna, you will not believe the turn of events now, more later !!

If the Vermeer handlers succumb to these sting attempts then they will have no-one else to blame but themselves for not taking the Art Hostage, Catholic Church confession box, Priest route.
Any delay in paying the Catholic Priest will be met by public condemnation and for this reason I am sure the reward will be paid as soon as the Vermeer arrives on American soil.

Conclusion, usual rules don't apply in the Gardner case and with the co-operation of the Catholic Church as mediators, the Vermeer can be the first Gardner painting home.
The INLA connection cements the Catholic Church confession box route as the INLA have used the Catholic church as mediators in the past, to hand over drugs confiscated from drug dealers for destruction, see link below:

However, Storm on the Sea of Galilee could take precedence, given the subject matter and being the only Rembrandt Seascape.

Come to think about it, I wonder what the odds would be for the first Gardner painting to be recovered ??

I know, how about Steve "Mr Magoo" Wyn, remember him, mogul who put elbow through Picasso, well he should open a spread on which stolen Gardner painting will be recovered first.

In fact why not an exhibit offering odds, that could raise some money for a good cause, triumph over tragedy.

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