Marking the twenty-fifth anniversary of the famous art heist at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, Tom Mashberg’s article in the Sunday New York Times – Still Missing After All These Years – reminded me of one of my favorite books – The Art Forger by B.A. Shapiro. Shapiro solves the crime of the stolen paintings in her novel, but the real culprits have never been found. Empty frames mark the spots where Gardner had chosen to display her Rembrandts, Vermeer, Manet, and Degas sketches. In her bequest, Gardner specified that after her death no item could be moved from the spot she had chosen to display it. The thieves left the frames and took the paintings.
Nonfiction books have speculated on the crime: Ulrich Boser wrote The Gardner Heist in 2010, and Mashberg himself teamed with the head of security at the museum, Anthony Amore, to write the 2012 Stealing Rembrandts: the Untold Stories of Notorious Art Heists – a book that includes a number of thefts, including the three Rembrandts stolen from the Gardner museum. But the paintings’ whereabouts remain a mystery. In fiction, Katherine Weber’s The Music Lesson speculates that a valuable Vermeer (not the one stolen from the Gardner museum) quietly hangs on the wall in West Cork, Ireland.
Only B.A. Shapiro has solved the case. If you have never read The Art Forger, the silver anniversary of the perfect crime might be a good time.
Read my review of Shapiro’s book – The Art Forger