'The Gardner Heist' by Ulrich Boser

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Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Gardner Museum in Boston is a monument to the idiosyncrasies of the rich. A replica of a Venetian palazzo, it embodies the vision of Isabella Stewart Gardner, who built a world-class art collection and displayed it her way. The museum's holdings include "works by Titian, Velazquez, Raphael, Manet, and Botticelli." Until 1990, the Gardner housed even more treasures; that was when thieves dressed as cops faked their way inside and made off with a Rembrandt, a Vermeer and other paintings valued at more than $500 million. Ulrich Boser presents his solution to the mystery: The culprits were the minions of Boston-area gangsters. But loose ends remain, notably the whereabouts of the paintings. It can't be easy to dispose of such well-known artworks, and a recent federal law has added to the complexity. As a lawyer explained to Boser, "If someone buys the Gardner Rembrandt fifty years down the road, they can still be prosecuted."

-- Dennis Drabelle

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