Vermeer's The Concert

Vermeer's The Concert

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Stolen Art Watch, Gardner Art Heist, The Nightmare Continues !!

Gardner Museum heist still unsolved
By Amanda Milkovits

Journal Staff Writer

There is someone out there in the world who knows who conducted the biggest art theft of all time. There is someone, somewhere, perhaps, enjoying the beauty of artwork valued at a half-billion dollars.

Eighteen years after two men posing as Boston police officers outwitted two security guards and stole 13 works of art from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, in Boston, the mystery remains.

Who was behind the heist? Where is the artwork now? Will the pieces ever be returned to their places within the museum, where the late Mrs. Gardner had arranged them herself a lifetime ago?

The museum’s director of security, Anthony Amore, talked about the heist on Friday as part of the University of Rhode Island’s continuing series of forensic science seminars. Amore, who graduated from URI with a degree in English, went on to a career in national security and intelligence work, including as a special agent for the Federal Aviation Administration and most recently as assistant federal security director at Boston’s Logan International Airport.

Amore, who has worked for the Gardner since 2005, said he has reorganized and improved training for the security guards and upgraded the security and surveillance equipment. But the empty frames hung on the walls where the stolen paintings used to be are a reminder of the museum’s loss. “The people who took these things [committed] the ultimate selfish act,” he said.

Amore said he often fields tips about what may have happened to the art work, even some bizarre ideas –– that the paintings are hidden in secret passageways within the Gardner, that the late Mrs. Gardner is communicating with psychics to tell them where the art work has gone. He said he has reviewed every file, every piece of evidence, and organized all he knows into a database that references and cross-references names and information, in hopes of making a connection.

But the $5-million reward offered by the Gardner for the return of the art work, or information leading to the return, still stands. The frames are still empty. And on March 18, it will have been 19 years since two men walked out with some of the most valuable artwork in the world, and disappeared.

Art theft is the third-highest-grossing criminal trade, Amore said, behind drugs and firearms. When the value of artwork spiked in 1961, when the Metropolitan Museum of Art bought a Rembrandt for $2.3 million, criminals took notice. Organized crime became involved. Fifteen years later, 118 Picassos were stolen from museums in France, he said.

Bold actions and basic human error left the Gardner Museum vulnerable. Two young guards were working that night, in March 1990, as St. Patrick’s festivities wound down, when two men dressed as Boston police officers approached the employee entrance and said they were investigating a disturbance and needed to come in.

Despite the museum’s written security policy not to admit police officers into the building unless they had been summoned by the museum, the guard let the “officers” in anyway, which Amore called “one of the biggest mistakes ever made.”

They asked him to call the other guard down to meet them. They lured the first guard away from his control desk, where he could have set off the alarm button, by telling him they thought he had a warrant. The “officers” ordered him against the wall and handcuffed him. When the second guard arrived, they handcuffed him as well. And then, Amore said, the intruders told the guards: “Gentlemen, this is a robbery.”

Amore flashed pictures on a screen of the washbasin where one guard was handcuffed, and the basement pipes where the other was taken, 40 yards away. The guards had been bound with duct tape. The thieves stripped the motion-detector readouts and broke the printer, not realizing that the authorities would be able to track their moves recorded on the computer’s hard drive.

Other museum heists have been quick smash-and-grabs, thieves overpowering guards and hustling out with what they wanted. Even the famous theft in 1911 of the Mona Lisa from the Louvre happened quickly, when museum worker Vincenzo Peruggia lifted the painting off the wall and carried it out under his arm. (He wanted to return da Vinci’s painting to Italy, but gave up and gave it back two years later.)

With the only two guards under control, the thieves in the Gardner had all the time they wanted. They sliced Rembrandt’s Portrait of a Lady and Gentleman in Black out of its frame. Amore showed a rarely seen close-up photo of the stretcher and the edge of canvas where a thief had sliced to remove the image.

The thieves pulled down Vermeer’s The Concert and Manet’s Chez Tortoni and ripped several Edgar Degas sketches from their frames. They apparently tried, unsuccessfully, to take a Napoleonic flag out of its frame.

The entire episode lasted 81 minutes. Over the years, investigators from the FBI and the museum itself have pored over the details of where the thieves went, why they took the items they did, why they passed by other more valuable works.

There are a multitude of theories behind the thefts, none of which Amore would discuss publicly. It’s still an active investigation, and he takes heart that other thefts have ended with the pieces returned. The truth and the Vermeer, Rembrandts, Degas, Manet and other valuable works are still waiting to be discovered.

Amore asks that anyone with information regarding the stolen artwork to contact him: e-mail: or Phone: (617) 278-5114.

Art Hostage Interviews Anthony Amore

(1) What is your favourite colour

Anthony Amore: That’s easy: the Azzurro of the Italian national soccer team.

(2) What is your favourite curse word

AA: I have too large a stable to choose from to pick just one.

(3) When you reach Heaven what would you like God to say to you

AA: Anthony, you did your best.

(4) The public reward offer made by the Gardner Museum contains the line “in good condition” can you elaborate on this because some of the stolen Gardner paintings were cut from their frames, therefore their condition could not be described as good.

AA: The Museum’s Board of Trustees is aware that two of the stolen paintings were cut from their frames and were damaged in the process.

This fact was taken into account when the verbiage surrounding the reward offer was crafted and the fact that the paintings were cut from their frames will not adversely affect an individual/s eligibility to cash in on the $5 million reward if the stolen artworks are returned in otherwise good condition.

(5) Can you confirm the amount of stolen artworks from the Gardner museum as there have been indications the list is not completely true, i.e. Eagle was not stolen

AA: I can definitively confirm that thirteen works of art were stolen. The Napoleonic finial which rested atop the flag of Napoleon’s first regiment was indeed among the art objects that were stolen during the heist. Some early newspaper accounts incorrectly stated that twelve pieces were stolen and that reporting error is still perpetuated in articles now and then.

(6) It is common knowledge within the stolen art world, both the Criminal underworld and those who recover stolen art, that Mark Dalrymple and Dick Ellis both met with Gardner Museum Director Anne Hawley and subsequent to those meetings both Mark Dalrymple and Dick Ellis came to the conclusion the reward offer was not sincere, can you please put the record straight once and for all.

AA: If your readers can take away only one message from this interview, it is that Anne Hawley is a woman of the utmost integrity.
For more than 18 years, Hawley has stated publicly that the Museum is offering a reward of $5 million for information leading directly to the recovery of the all 13 pieces in good condition.

She would not make this statement if it were not absolutely true. Further, Anne’s commitment is echoed and fully supported by the Museum’s Board of Trustees.

It also bears mention that the Board of Trustees re-authorized the reward this past November – and all of us at the museum look forward to the day when the stolen artworks are returned to the museum and to an awaiting public where they belong and can make good on the $5 million offer.

(7) To prevent any stings and arrests at the actual recovery of the stolen Gardner art, do you agree a neutral place should be chosen and then authorities, or better still Anthony Amore, is directed to the location to collect the stolen Gardner art?

AA: The museum can ensure confidentiality to anyone with information leading to the recovery of the stolen artworks. My hope is that whoever is in possession of Mrs. Gardner’s art will come forward in a manner that best protects the condition of the artwork.

(8) If you agree with a neutral location to receive the stolen Gardner art, do you also agree a Catholic Church confession box would be ideal, not least because of the symbol of absolution and also because a Catholic church confession box prevents any trace as to who handed back the stolen Gardner art.

AA: In an absolute best case scenario, I believe it best that the art not be moved at all so that the museum’s conservators can handle any movement, thus protecting the art in the best possible manner. In line with this, I would remind those in possession of the art that it should be stored at 70 degrees Fahrenheit and 50% humidity.

My hope is that an individual/individuals with information that will help us locate the stolen artwork will come forward – and that he or she will come forward in a manner that best protects the condition of the artwork. Again, the museum can ensure complete confidentiality of anyone with information leading to the recovery of the stolen artworks.

(9) Geoff Kelly, lead FBI Agent in charge of the Gardner Heist investigation is clearly a thoroughly decent and honest hardworking FBI Agent, how will the FBI react if they are not included in your recovery of the stolen Gardner art, will they allow it to happen, will they stand aside.

AA: Special Agent Kelly has proven to me that his main concern is the return of all of the art in good condition. The FBI and the United States Attorney’s Office, have given me every reason to believe that they are, as is the museum, seeking a successful resolution to this tragedy, not credit.

(10) There have been many references to Ireland during the Gardner Heist investigation can you confirm your findings

AA: As an open, active investigation, I cannot speak to any specific theories or leads in the case – other than to say that the museum follows each and every lead and encourages anyone with any information about the stolen artworks and/or the investigation–no matter how seemingly small – to contact me, Anthony Amore, Director of Security, directly at 617/278-5114 or .

The museum is offering a reward of $5 million for information leading directly to the recovery of the stolen artworks in good condition, and can ensure confidentiality.

(11) Dick Ellis claims he obtained an immunity agreement from the Boston D.A. in 2002, have you obtained an immunity agreement, if so, would it be possible for Art Hostage to post it on the blog so the public, and those in control of the stolen Gardner art can review it.

AA: Because the matter is in the hands of the Federal government, your question would pertain to an immunity agreement from the United States Attorney for Massachusetts. I have no information about such an agreement, although, I can say that United States Attorney Sullivan has in the past expressed a willingness to grant immunity (depending on the circumstances, of course) in this matter.

(12) We have, and the criminal underworld have, seen the Lawyers and private detectives who handed back the Da Vinci Madonna arrested and indicted, what assurances can you offer to allay the fears of those with the stolen Gardner art they will not suffer the same fate

AA: The Museum’s sole concern is the recovery of all of the art in good condition. The Museum is offering a reward for $5 million for information leading to the recovery of the stolen artworks in good condition – and can ensure confidentiality. Anyone with information about the theft or the location of the stolen artworks can contact the museum – and me directly via or my direct line, 617 278 5114. Matters related to arrests and indictment are the responsibility of Federal law enforcement authorities.

(14) Some people have said over the years they thought the Gardner art was really insured and the $5 million reward offer is coming from the insurance payout, can you confirm whether the Gardner art was really insured, and if not, where has the $5 million reward come from and is it sitting in an account waiting to be paid.

AA: The Gardner art was most definitely not insured. These stolen artworks are invaluable and irreplaceable. The $5 million reward is indeed real, and the Museum is eager to disburse the full $5 million the reward for information that leads directly to the return of the stolen artwork in good condition.

(15) How do you intend to pay the reward, have you obtained permission from the FBI and the Boston D.A. to pay the reward without informing them.

AA: The reward is being offered by the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, not the FBI or the D.A. and will be paid by the Museum at its discretion on the receipt of information that leads to the return of all of the stolen artworks in good condition. The reward will be awarded at our discretion.

(16) Do you intend to keep FBI Agent Geoff Kelly informed as to your negotiations, or will you work without a net, so to speak.

AA: Special Agent Kelly has expressed his willingness to support me and the museum’s efforts to recover our art. He respects our working relationship and the museum’s needs to pursue its interests directly

(17) Would you be prepared to recover the stolen Gardner art covertly and face the wrath of law enforcement post-recovery.

AA: I don’t foresee facing “the wrath of law enforcement.” I see law enforcement as an understanding partner in my efforts to recover the Gardner’s stolen artworks – and to return them to the museum, and an awaiting public, where they belong.

(18) Would you be prepared to break the law, even go to jail, in recovering the stolen Gardner art.

AA: Absolutely not.

(19) If you were able to only choose one stolen Gardner painting to recover, which one would that be, Art Hostage would choose the Vermeer.

AA: I am well aware of Art Hostage’s love for the Vermeer, and it speaks to your good taste in art! We at the Museum see all 13 pieces as parts separated from the entirety of Mrs. Gardner’s collective work. She placed each of the thousands of pieces of work in the Museum in an exact location in order to create a larger work of art. With even one piece gone, her work is incomplete.
- (20) How do you react to those (Mark Dalrymple) who accuses you of being nothing more than a civil servant pen pusher who has no authority and experience in recovering stolen art.

AA: Mr. Dalrymple and I do not know each other. I’ll assume that this accusation—if truly made—was taken out of context.

(21) Rocky has been working for the Gardner Museum for a few years now and has received payment for his work, how do you react to those (Mark Dalrymple) who say Rocky is just scamming the Gardner Museum without any realistic prospect of recovering any of the stolen artworks.

AA: I cannot confirm that your depiction of Mr. Rokoszynski’s relationship with the Museum is accurate. I can say that I know Mr. Rokoszynski very well. He is an investigator with a record of remarkable success in his distinguished career with Scotland Yard. I trust him and consider him a close friend and valued mentor. In my years of dealing with him, he has acted with honor and integrity. I seek his counsel regularly, and the Museum welcomes his guidance and assistance in our recovery efforts

(22) Finally Anthony, imagine Art Hostage could convince those with the Gardner art to hand the Vermeer back via a Catholic Church confession box, how would they get paid the reward.

AA: I don’t know that it serves the Museum or those in possession of the art well to disclose publicly how the reward would be handled, other than to say that it would be handled legitimately and discreetly. Further, there are myriad ways in which the reward could be paid out, so it is difficult to speak to this with any useful specificity.

(23) Alternatively, lets take it step by step, Anthony could you take us through each step of your proposed recovery of the stolen Gardner art, avoiding arrests and ending with the reward payments made.

AA: Art Hostage, I welcome you to ask me that question again after the recovery!

Thank you for the opportunity to address these important matters – and for the work you do.

Art Hostage comments:

I am sure those who read Stolen Vermeer realise Art Hostage speaks from a unique perspective.

With that in mind I am also sure those with control of the stolen Gardner art, be it some in Ireland and some still in the U.S. will take note when I say there are only two people who can recover the stolen Gardner art in a fashion that protects whoever steps forward with the vital information that allows these priceless icons to surface.

First, of course is the now retired FBI Art Crime icon Robert Wittman, who, now free from the burdens of office can offer a much more pragmatic approach to those with inside information. Also, Bob Wittman can firmly put recovery at the top of the list and can even work to a goal that only see's the artworks recovered without arrests.

Second, is Anthony Amore, a true gentleman and someone who will walk through fire, over broken glass to recover the stolen Gardner art.

If Art Hostage had inside information that would allow the stolen Gardner art to surface, without arrests he would certainly contact either Robert Wittman or Anthony Amore.

Better still, Robert Wittman and Anthony Amore would be the ideal partnership to recover the stolen Gardner art and I am sure they both share the same desire to recover the Gardner art first and foremost, with arresting anyone coming far down their list of things to achieve.

I hope the right people read this post and use it for future reference when they decide to make a play to return the stolen Gardner art.

Remember, amongst all the people trying to recover the stolen Gardner art, Anthony Amore and Robert Wittman are the only two honest people in a position to facilitate this.

How would Anthony Amore and Robert Wittman actually proceed ??

I will leave that to them to explain if the right person contacts them.

Anthony Amore can be reached at: e-mail: or
Phone: (617) 278-5114.

If you want to include Robert Wittman just tell Anthony Amore and he will oblige.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Dick Ellis is trying to sting the Irish guys who hold some Gardner art.

He is going to get them all arrested soon, so beware of the Dick Ellis false promises and undercover sting operation happening now in Ireland.
July 3rd 2012