On that list: five Blanche Adler donations. Two of them were Rembrandts.
Billet died before the FBI completed its investigation and was never charged with a crime. His family reached a settlement with Donson, who had been convicted in the 1970s for trying to steal prints from the Metropolitan Museum of Art and for illegally possessing some letters written by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. Donson hung up when a reporter brought up those incidents in a phone call Thursday.
Ultimately, the FBI and Jay Fisher, the BMA’s deputy director for curatorial affairs, tracked down Blanche Adler’s five prints.One was in Canada, another in Amsterdam. The prints were returned to the BMA in the 1980s and 1990s.
But other prints stolen in that heist have never been recovered, the BMA said. And, until they were told by The Post, Adler and Ascher never knew that artworks from a second ancestor had been stolen from the BMA.
Selling off some works
Although she spent 12 years writing a book on May, Adler still has many questions about her. Adler, whose mother is on the museum’s board of trustees, wonders why the BMA won’t let her visit the storage areas containing the rest of May’s artworks. She also wishes the BMA would inform relatives when it sells May’s items.
Adler said she learned recently that the BMA had sold May’s three other Renoirs decades ago only because she had been working on the May biography and needed to know which of May’s major pieces the BMA deaccessioned.
The BMA said it always adheres to industry practice by contacting the donor or the donor’s immediate family when it sells any items from their collection. Ascher said the museum sometimes used to notify her in advance of sales, but no longer.
Anne Brown, a BMA spokeswoman, said that sales of some of May’s art have enabled the museum to purchase 72 pieces, including a painting by Alfred Jensen, a South American-born artist who was May’s lover and traveling companion; a suite of Jackson Pollock prints; a Picasso print; and a Matisse sculpture.
What irked Adler the most: The BMA never told her that it had May’s diary while she researched her 300-page May biography, “Saidie May: Pioneer of Early 20th Century Collecting.” (The BMA gift shop sells the book, which Adler self-published, for $40.)
In late October, Adler went to the BMA library and read May’s diary for the first time. As Adler scanned the pages, one sentence stuck out. It was about May’s visit to the Paris gallery where she purchased “On the Shore of the Seine.” May’s line was in a bigger passage dated, curiously, Nov. 21, 1925.