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Stealing Rembrandts: The Untold Stories of Notorious Art Heists

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A spellbinding journey into the high-stakes world of art theft Today, art theft is one of the most profitable criminal enterprises in the world, exceeding $6 billion in losses to galleries and art collectors annually. And the masterpieces of Rembrandt van Rijn are some of the most frequently targeted. In Stealing Rembrandts, art security expert Anthony M. Amore and award-win A spellbinding journey into the high-stakes world of art theft Today, art theft is one of the most profitable criminal enterprises in the world, exceeding $6 billion in losses to galleries and art collectors annually. And the masterpieces of Rembrandt van Rijn are some of the most frequently targeted. In Stealing Rembrandts, art security expert Anthony M. Amore and award-winning investigative reporter Tom Mashberg reveal the actors behind the major Rembrandt heists in the last century. Through thefts around the world - from Stockholm to Boston, Worcester to Ohio - the authors track daring entries and escapes from the world's most renowned museums. There are robbers who coolly walk off with multimillion dollar paintings; self-styled art experts who fall in love with the Dutch master and desire to own his art at all costs; and international criminal masterminds who don't hesitate to resort to violence. They also show how museums are thwarted in their ability to pursue the thieves - even going so far as to conduct investigations on their own, far away from the maddening crowd of police intervention, sparing no expense to save the priceless masterpieces. Stealing Rembrandts is an exhilarating, one-of-a-kind look at the black market of art theft, and how it compromises some of the greatest treasures the world has ever known.


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A spellbinding journey into the high-stakes world of art theft Today, art theft is one of the most profitable criminal enterprises in the world, exceeding $6 billion in losses to galleries and art collectors annually. And the masterpieces of Rembrandt van Rijn are some of the most frequently targeted. In Stealing Rembrandts, art security expert Anthony M. Amore and award-win A spellbinding journey into the high-stakes world of art theft Today, art theft is one of the most profitable criminal enterprises in the world, exceeding $6 billion in losses to galleries and art collectors annually. And the masterpieces of Rembrandt van Rijn are some of the most frequently targeted. In Stealing Rembrandts, art security expert Anthony M. Amore and award-winning investigative reporter Tom Mashberg reveal the actors behind the major Rembrandt heists in the last century. Through thefts around the world - from Stockholm to Boston, Worcester to Ohio - the authors track daring entries and escapes from the world's most renowned museums. There are robbers who coolly walk off with multimillion dollar paintings; self-styled art experts who fall in love with the Dutch master and desire to own his art at all costs; and international criminal masterminds who don't hesitate to resort to violence. They also show how museums are thwarted in their ability to pursue the thieves - even going so far as to conduct investigations on their own, far away from the maddening crowd of police intervention, sparing no expense to save the priceless masterpieces. Stealing Rembrandts is an exhilarating, one-of-a-kind look at the black market of art theft, and how it compromises some of the greatest treasures the world has ever known.

30 review for Stealing Rembrandts: The Untold Stories of Notorious Art Heists

  1. 4 out of 5

    Jimmy

    Disclaimer: This is NOT a real review because I never finished the book. I LOVE heists, so I thought this would be a good book to read. But I realized my error upon reading the first few chapters. The author is intent on destroying the myths around heists... but that's the part I love about heists! Their mythical power! He's like "your concept of a heist is probably tainted by hollywood, let me show you how unglamorous and anticlimactic it really is." The author has all the entirely wrong attitud Disclaimer: This is NOT a real review because I never finished the book. I LOVE heists, so I thought this would be a good book to read. But I realized my error upon reading the first few chapters. The author is intent on destroying the myths around heists... but that's the part I love about heists! Their mythical power! He's like "your concept of a heist is probably tainted by hollywood, let me show you how unglamorous and anticlimactic it really is." The author has all the entirely wrong attitudes towards heists! He wants to stop them because it's stealing and it's wrong. Boo fucking hoo. Heists are exciting and mysterious and glamorous! They're something to be celebrated, and if you want to stop them it's only so that the next heist will be even more impossible and the stakes even higher and the eventual successful heist all the sweeter because of the challenge. Forget the artwork. The heist IS the art. This author totally doesn't get that, and that's why I'm not finishing his book.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Lance Charnes

    In 2005, Anthony Amore took on the second least desirable job in the museum world: security director at Boston's Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. (Least desirable: being security director in 1990 when thieves stole 13 artworks from the museum, at $350 million the single largest heist in American history.) As part of his effort to try to recover the stolen paintings, he began to study a very narrow niche of the art-crime world -- thefts of Rembrandts. Stealing Rembrandts is the result of his home In 2005, Anthony Amore took on the second least desirable job in the museum world: security director at Boston's Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. (Least desirable: being security director in 1990 when thieves stole 13 artworks from the museum, at $350 million the single largest heist in American history.) As part of his effort to try to recover the stolen paintings, he began to study a very narrow niche of the art-crime world -- thefts of Rembrandts. Stealing Rembrandts is the result of his homework. ISGM lost three of the Dutch master's works, which joined in limbo the other 94 Rembrandts that have gone missing worldwide. Mr. van Rijn's daubs have been stolen for decades, by a wide range of personalities for the whole gamut of reasons. The author recounts some of the more interesting cases in this book. In each instance, he gives us some background on the stolen goods (Rembrandt's life was a rags-to-riches-to-rags tale, and he created several of the stolen paintings at key points in his career), then describes the theft, the players involved in both the crime and the investigation, and how everything turned out in the end. Along the way, you'll learn a good deal about the realities of the stolen-art market, museum security, and what really happens when you stash an Old Master in the attic. Amore is a security guy, not an art guy. When he writes about the paintings themselves, he comes at it from the viewpoint of an educated layman; no highfalutin' MFA-speak for him. The rest of the text is equally plainspoken. The descriptions of the robberies are straightforward and easy to follow. His co-author, Tom Mashberg, was an investigative reporter for the Boston Herald, and it shows: each chapter reads like a newspaper feature. This is also this book's major (though survivable) shortfall. The stories are interesting enough, but they're told without the sense of drama and character that made Hot Art: Chasing Thieves and Detectives Through the Secret World of Stolen Art read like a detective novel. This may or may not appeal depending on whether you like your true-crime tales hot or cool. The art-crime books that work best for me are the ones that feature a strong central character or characters who can bridge the inherently episodic nature of the narratives. That's not the case here. What you get is a series of short stories loosely tied together by the artist whose works are disappearing into the night. While this book isn't about the author (unlike, say, Priceless: How I Went Undercover to Rescue the World's Stolen Treasures ), Amore may have been a bit too thorough in removing himself from the narrative. Again, you'll have to decide whether this bothers you. About the only other complaint I have is about the miserably small selection of photos. I've said it before, but I'll repeat: in any book about art, we need to see the art. Stealing Rembrandts is a solid journalistic exploration of art theft as it really is. If you're into real-life, big-ticket thievery, this book delivers plenty. Expect "interesting" rather than "exciting" and you won't be disappointed.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Cynthia

    This is such a rich subject that it was disappointing how flat and dull this book was. Yes, yes, I know it was written by a security expert and not a New Yorker writer but ... There is very little compelling history of the artwork itself and the description of the many thefts (Rembrandt works are apparently stolen more than any other works of art, because there are so many of them and because they have such a high value) is laid out in a kind of scattershot way that makes it hard to follow and a This is such a rich subject that it was disappointing how flat and dull this book was. Yes, yes, I know it was written by a security expert and not a New Yorker writer but ... There is very little compelling history of the artwork itself and the description of the many thefts (Rembrandt works are apparently stolen more than any other works of art, because there are so many of them and because they have such a high value) is laid out in a kind of scattershot way that makes it hard to follow and almost impossible to care about. There's another book about art theft by the FBI's Robert Wittman, who is apparently a legend in the art investigation business. Amore even refers to it several times. If you had to choose between the two books, Wittman's book is much much more compelling and a great read. This one? It's fine but ... hard to recommend.

  4. 4 out of 5

    ---

    Stealing Rembrandts was a fun book that kept me interested, but had some pretty massive holes that I didn't expect. First, it's basically one big warning to would-be thieves that crime doesn't pay. Amore is obsessed with pointing out that most people who steal artwork don't have any idea what to do with it, and so they end up just holding onto or destroying any art that they're not caught with. If they're caught, they do to jail. I know Rembrandts weren't the target, and this book is alllll abou Stealing Rembrandts was a fun book that kept me interested, but had some pretty massive holes that I didn't expect. First, it's basically one big warning to would-be thieves that crime doesn't pay. Amore is obsessed with pointing out that most people who steal artwork don't have any idea what to do with it, and so they end up just holding onto or destroying any art that they're not caught with. If they're caught, they do to jail. I know Rembrandts weren't the target, and this book is alllll about the Rembrandts, but this "crime doesn't pay... EVER" narrative doesn't really hold much weight for me coming from the security adviser of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, home of one of (if not the single) largest art heists in American history. (That art still hasn't been recovered 25 years later, and most believe it's already made its way around to other owners on the black market). Amore points out that most of what we think we know about art crime - namely, that there are evil supervillains out there who have hit lists of art that they hire professional thieves to steal - is a ruse. It's created by the media in movies like The Thomas Crowne Affair or television shows like White Collar. Experts in the phenomenon of Art Crime do not all agree with Amore, and though he purposefully picked thefts that resulted in the criminals' capture or in damage to the art to prove a point, Art Crime, by John Conklin, shows a much more comprehensive breakdown of how art crime can play out... Supervillain and super thieves and all. It's a good beach read. Fun, fast, and interesting. What it isn't is an academic exploration of art theft or of the totality of Rembrandt crimes (that second point is more than okay.. Rembrandts have been the number one target of theft in the last 2 centuries). Recommended, for sure, but only if you're looking for light fare.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Caterina Pierre

    I found this to be an interesting book about history’s most stolen artist, Rembrandt Harmensz. Van Rijn. I say interesting because, at times, it isn’t gripping. Some of the tales are recounted without much vigor, (a person or persons walks in to a museum, a gallery, or a home, and walks out with the goods, ho hum), except for Chapter Seven on the Stockholm National Museum theft of 2000 which is recounted dramatically, and which was a dramatic heist anyway. Sometimes the book (especially at the e I found this to be an interesting book about history’s most stolen artist, Rembrandt Harmensz. Van Rijn. I say interesting because, at times, it isn’t gripping. Some of the tales are recounted without much vigor, (a person or persons walks in to a museum, a gallery, or a home, and walks out with the goods, ho hum), except for Chapter Seven on the Stockholm National Museum theft of 2000 which is recounted dramatically, and which was a dramatic heist anyway. Sometimes the book (especially at the end) reads like a laundry list of thefts (then this one was stolen; and then this one was stolen). While the subtitle is “the untold stories of notorious art heists,” some of these accounts appeared in earlier publications, notably in Robert K. Wittman’s Priceless (2010), and in the many various publications cited in the notes and the bibliography of this book. However, if one is interested in taking stock of Rembrandt’s work as a ubiquitous target for both smart thieves as well as morons, this is a good and readable overview. Though it is not a book about Rembrandt per se, there are a few parts that give the reader some insight on his working process; this is done best in the last chapter on his etchings. The list of stolen Rembrandts at the end of the book is good, but it’s not useful in reminding the reader which if any of these works were recovered. The book has endnotes and a short bibliography of recent books (up to 2011) on art theft and on Rembrandt. If you are interested in art crime specifically, then it’s a must-read, but don’t read it for fun because at times it drags. If you read only selected chapters, I would recommend those on the “Takeaway Rembrandt,” a work stolen no less than four times in less than twenty years (Chapter Three); the MFA Boston heist (Chapter Six); and Chapter Seven already mentioned.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Kris

    Short but interesting book on the history of art thefts centering around the prolific works of Rembrandt. Very interesting, especially as regards motives for the thefts, and how pieces seem to be mostly chosen at random and not for high value (and sometimes for size consideration!). To put it succinctly, turns out art crime is unlikely to pay, unless you’re starting a Museum of Stolen Art that nobody can come see.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Kylie Brooks

    Loved this book! Super fascinating exploration of different Rembrandt-focused art crime, particularly in the 20th century. Each chapter tells of a different heist, which means you get a lot of stories. However, it can make it hard to keep the players straight. Really enjoyed this.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Jonathan Lopez

    In 1997, a gang of criminals escorted Boston Herald Sunday Editor Tom Mashberg to an undisclosed warehouse and showed him an old master oil painting. Inspecting the painting by flashlight, Mashberg believed it to be Rembrandt’s Christ in the Storm on the Sea of Galilee, famously stolen, along with several other priceless pictures, from Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in 1990. Since Mashberg’s possible sighting, the missing Gardner artworks have gone back underground, and the crime remain In 1997, a gang of criminals escorted Boston Herald Sunday Editor Tom Mashberg to an undisclosed warehouse and showed him an old master oil painting. Inspecting the painting by flashlight, Mashberg believed it to be Rembrandt’s Christ in the Storm on the Sea of Galilee, famously stolen, along with several other priceless pictures, from Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in 1990. Since Mashberg’s possible sighting, the missing Gardner artworks have gone back underground, and the crime remains unsolved. Mashberg has now teamed up with the Gardner Museum’s head of security, Anthony M. Amore, to write Stealing Rembrandts, a detailed look at numerous robberies targeting works by the great Dutch master over the past century. Combining impressive shoe-leather reporting skills with solid art-world knowledge, this fascinating book debunks many myths about museum heists while providing vivid profiles of the criminals and their motives. The rest of my review is available free online from the Associated Press: http://www.miamiherald.com/2011/07/10...

  9. 4 out of 5

    Marion

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Co-authored by the director of security at the Isabella Stewart Museum (scene of a still-unsolved, infamous art theft in 1990) in Boston and an investigative reporter, this book focuses mostly on Rembrandt thefts around the world which HAVE been solved. However, it stresses the number of unsolved thefts. It is really a plea to thieves that stealing famous Rembrandts rarely results in big bucks and often badly damages priceless paintings, etchings etc. due to mishandling and poor/humid storage co Co-authored by the director of security at the Isabella Stewart Museum (scene of a still-unsolved, infamous art theft in 1990) in Boston and an investigative reporter, this book focuses mostly on Rembrandt thefts around the world which HAVE been solved. However, it stresses the number of unsolved thefts. It is really a plea to thieves that stealing famous Rembrandts rarely results in big bucks and often badly damages priceless paintings, etchings etc. due to mishandling and poor/humid storage conditions outside museum or home settings. I agree with the authors' assessment that "the art theft book" is now a genre unto itself. I have a number of them on my shelves and found this one to be an excellent addition. The book, together with its footnotes and bibliography, offer further reading and movie rental ideas. A list of known Rembrandt thefts is also included in the back. A shocking piece of reporting that I had not known previously: in the 1960s and 70s, prisoners got work-release in art museum basements - where some of them learned the intricacies of "the system" and quite easily stole from treasures not being displayed.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Rick-Founder JM CM BOOK CLUB

    "A spellbinding journey into the high-stakes world of art theft "Today, art theft is one of the most profitable criminal enterprises in the world, exceeding $6 billion in losses to galleries and art collectors annually. And the masterpieces of Rembrandt van Rijn are some of the most frequently targeted." A truly thrilling and extremely facinating foray into a much under-appreciated issue- the theft of priceless paintings. Mr. Amore- who certainly knows from what he writes about- has managed to mak "A spellbinding journey into the high-stakes world of art theft "Today, art theft is one of the most profitable criminal enterprises in the world, exceeding $6 billion in losses to galleries and art collectors annually. And the masterpieces of Rembrandt van Rijn are some of the most frequently targeted." A truly thrilling and extremely facinating foray into a much under-appreciated issue- the theft of priceless paintings. Mr. Amore- who certainly knows from what he writes about- has managed to make a topic which should recieve more attention, into a book that this reviewer feels will indeed to bring to light this most terrible of crimes. The writing style is both informative and gripping, full of facinating events and characters ( real life characters!) - handled in such a way as to make this superb book read as much like a thriller as the sadly- non-fiction work it is. Mr. Amore's section on the thefts at the Isabelle Stuart Gardner Museum in Boston is just one breath-taking part of a MUST READ book HIGHEST RECCOMENDATION- OFFICIAL JAMES MASON COMMUNITY BOOK CLUB MUST READ RICK FRIEDMAN FOUNDER THE JAMES MASON COMMUNITY BOOK CLUB

  11. 5 out of 5

    Margo Brooks

    An entertaining book about the daring and bumbling theft of Rembrandt's works of art from around the world. This book highlights both the vulnerability of great master works, as well as the impossibility of selling such works on the black market. Additionally, the motivation of the criminals, from money, to dissatisfaction with government are quite eye opening. Although the book was cowritten by the current chief of security at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, home of one of the mo An entertaining book about the daring and bumbling theft of Rembrandt's works of art from around the world. This book highlights both the vulnerability of great master works, as well as the impossibility of selling such works on the black market. Additionally, the motivation of the criminals, from money, to dissatisfaction with government are quite eye opening. Although the book was cowritten by the current chief of security at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, home of one of the most famous Rembrandt heists in history, don't expect to read any juicy information about the whereabouts of the missing paintings. Amore revealed in a recent lecture that they actually know WHO stole the paintings, but that the paintings' whereabouts are still unknown. Since the statue of limitations for prosecuting the thieves is over, they are sitting on the information in the hope that the paintings will one day be returned.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Artguy

    I don't know why I have been obsessed with reading about art thefts. Don't get the wrong idea-- I am not planning a major heist! However, I do find it intriguing, a bit like my fascination with being stranded alone on an island. This book focuses on Rembrandt paintings and etchings that have been stolen over the years. Sprinkled in it are tales from the life of Rembrandt himself, which were some of my favorite portions of the book. Even so, there are some interesting tales of criminals and how th I don't know why I have been obsessed with reading about art thefts. Don't get the wrong idea-- I am not planning a major heist! However, I do find it intriguing, a bit like my fascination with being stranded alone on an island. This book focuses on Rembrandt paintings and etchings that have been stolen over the years. Sprinkled in it are tales from the life of Rembrandt himself, which were some of my favorite portions of the book. Even so, there are some interesting tales of criminals and how they pulled off the job. Without giving away too much, here is what I learned: 1. It is one thing to steal art, it is quite another thing to sell it. Many robbers ended up trying to return the work to avoid long jail sentences. 2. Most art thieves know nothing about art. One even stored multi-million dollar paintings in a barn for years. 3. Forged etchings of Rembrandt are far more common and nearly impossible to detect. Beware.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Alison

    If you're here for the Rembrandts, you'll probably find this book interesting; if you're here for the heists, you'll be Hugely Disappointed. (I was not here for the Rembrandts.) On the heist front, Chapter Six is the only one worth reading. The rest of the book was an endless litany of "Art Crime Is Bad, Kids, Don't Do It," which...valid. But I was totally here to read about Heists, not to be lectured on how bad theft is. Also, the writing was dry, except where I laughed at lines I'm 87% sure were If you're here for the Rembrandts, you'll probably find this book interesting; if you're here for the heists, you'll be Hugely Disappointed. (I was not here for the Rembrandts.) On the heist front, Chapter Six is the only one worth reading. The rest of the book was an endless litany of "Art Crime Is Bad, Kids, Don't Do It," which...valid. But I was totally here to read about Heists, not to be lectured on how bad theft is. Also, the writing was dry, except where I laughed at lines I'm 87% sure weren't meant to be funny. Journalistic and borderline clinical, where it wasn't being preachy. If you're considering picking this one up for heisty purposes, just read Chapter Six (it's 26 pages), and know that's as good as it gets.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Roger

    After attending an entertaining talk given by the author on the subject matter in the book, my wife and I purchased a copy from Mr. Amore. Having visited the Gardener Museum many times over the years and being a life long admirer of Rembrandt's paintings, this well researched book that chronicles the surprising number of thefts of the master's works, is a great read for any lover of Rembrandt, fine art, and un solved mysteries. After attending an entertaining talk given by the author on the subject matter in the book, my wife and I purchased a copy from Mr. Amore. Having visited the Gardener Museum many times over the years and being a life long admirer of Rembrandt's paintings, this well researched book that chronicles the surprising number of thefts of the master's works, is a great read for any lover of Rembrandt, fine art, and un solved mysteries.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Constance

    This book is such a disappointment. It should have been a can't-put-down sort of book: it has true crime, exotic locales, master criminals -- and I was bored to tears. I can't quite pin down why. Somehow, the writing was tedious. Read for the information. Don't read it to be enthralled. This book is such a disappointment. It should have been a can't-put-down sort of book: it has true crime, exotic locales, master criminals -- and I was bored to tears. I can't quite pin down why. Somehow, the writing was tedious. Read for the information. Don't read it to be enthralled.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Scott

    thanks goodreads.com for the free book. Entertaining read! The book dismantles the notion of the debonair art thief and the high tech caper (sorry whitecollar fans!).

  17. 5 out of 5

    Ruth

    4.5 stars--great information and interesting stories of art theft

  18. 4 out of 5

    Jocelyn Smith

    So glad I bought this book after hearing a lecture given by the author. It was very insightful. This book is nothing like anything I have ever read.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Alexa

    I read the whole book, enjoyed parts and learned many things, but this book could’ve been so much more. My sister gifted this to me years ago, when I visited the Isabella Stewart Gardiner museum, home of perhaps the most notorious unsolved art heist of the last century. This book starts there, grasping at the motivations, the methods, the investigation, and the fate of that art. The beginning had me hooked. From there, it proceeded to recount several other heists, with insight from the thieves ab I read the whole book, enjoyed parts and learned many things, but this book could’ve been so much more. My sister gifted this to me years ago, when I visited the Isabella Stewart Gardiner museum, home of perhaps the most notorious unsolved art heist of the last century. This book starts there, grasping at the motivations, the methods, the investigation, and the fate of that art. The beginning had me hooked. From there, it proceeded to recount several other heists, with insight from the thieves about how and why they did it, the detectives that tracked them down, the museum representatives, and the press. I flew through several more chapters, developing an appreciation of the general framework of how and why paintings are stolen. But from there, it gets far more granular and repetitive than I think is beneficial. There’s a pattern we see again and again: museum is robbed, stolen art includes works by Rembrandt, thieves get away initially, but don’t know how to offload the art, investigators catch on to them, a trap is set, the art is recovered (typically) or destroyed (occasionally), and public viewing recommences at the museum. For at least a third of the book, we get a factual and moralized account of a Rembrandt being stolen and what became of it. This is what the title says the book will be about. And yet, it underwhelms. There are so many interesting questions bubbling just below the surface that this book doesn’t take the time to ask or answer because it has so many dates and Rembrandt works and museum directors to mention along the way. My biggest frustration is that this book does to little to address the fundamental questions about its own structure. Why Rembrandt? He’s not the only painter in history. Why do people steal his works so frequently? Why are his works so highly valued? Why should we care every time a Rembrandt is stolen when it has happened at least once a year and there are hundreds of verified works by the Dutch master? The most satisfying answer I found to this came on page 157 as they specifically address Rembrandt’s self portraits. If you ask me, it was too little, too late in this book. There wasn’t enough of a theme to tie all the stories in this book together in a satisfying way. I learned a lot, and now I want to know more. I also have a greater appreciation for and desire to visit museums, so the book is a success on that front. But it was a chore to read at times, and that’s a shame.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Madeline

    Rather than being an overview of the most famous art heists in history (which, I'd argue, would make a more interesting subject), the authors of Stealing Rembrandts have chosen to focus specifically on the thefts of one artist - and with literally hundreds of authenticated paintings, sketches, and etchings attributed to his name, Rembrandt is the most heisted artist in history. The authors (a journalist and a security expert) of Stealing Rembrandts walk us through several of the most famous - or Rather than being an overview of the most famous art heists in history (which, I'd argue, would make a more interesting subject), the authors of Stealing Rembrandts have chosen to focus specifically on the thefts of one artist - and with literally hundreds of authenticated paintings, sketches, and etchings attributed to his name, Rembrandt is the most heisted artist in history. The authors (a journalist and a security expert) of Stealing Rembrandts walk us through several of the most famous - or at least most notorious - thefts of the Dutch artists works. And of course they give special attention to one of the most famous art heists: the 1990 break-in at the Isabella Stewart Gardner museum in Boston, in which thirteen works of art (including Rembrandt's only known seascape painting, The Storm on the Sea of Galilee) went missing and, so far, none of which have been recovered. First, a warning to anyone thinking of diving into this book: this is one of those history books where the specific goal is to take a dramatic, sensationalized subject and then just beat you over the head with the boring, mundane reality. If you want an idea of just how much of a "well, actually" this book is, here's a hint: the very first chapter is titled "There is No 'Dr No'." It then goes on to patiently explain that the idea of the sophisticated gentleman thief who steals precious artworks simply to possess them, is entirely a Hollywood myth. The reality, the authors assure us, is much more boring! ...yay. Because of course the people who steal priceless artwork aren't master thieves who hack security systems and elegantly flip their way through laser beam alarm systems and then retire to their mansion in Italy where they sip a glass of wine and admire their private collection of stolen masterpieces. Art theft is like any other basic breaking-and-entering case, where the thieves smash their way into a place, grab what they can, and sell the spoils off to whoever wants them. As Stealing Rembrandts shows us, there are multiple instances where people broke into a museum and grabbed several large, flashy pieces that weren't worth much, while ignoring the smaller but infinitely more valuable items - in other words, people who rob museums often have no idea what they're even looking for, and certainly don't have an encyclopedic knowledge of art history at their disposal. So that's a bummer, I'm not going to lie! And the authors aren't really interested in exploring how and why art theft has captured the public imagination in the way it has, and why we feel compelled to imagine that it's a more elevated, refined type of crime. Anthony M. Amore and Tom Mashberg (a journalist and a security expert, respectively) are not novelists, and are therefore only concerned with the nuts-and-bolts details of the various crimes they describe. There's very little drama and absolutely nothing fun about this book. It's informative and interesting, but everyone should know what they're getting into with this one. Sometimes, the movie version is just better.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Megan

    I visited the Gardner Museum on a recent trip to Boston. While there, I learned of the 1990 heist at the museum, in which thieves stole 13 works by cutting them from their frames with a box cutter. Today, as the works have not been recovered, only the frames remain (swipe right for an example). ⁣ ⁣ These empty frames saddened me as they represented a loss of art in the public domain. Among the works was a painting by Vermeer, one of only 34 paintings attributed to him today. I wanted to learn more I visited the Gardner Museum on a recent trip to Boston. While there, I learned of the 1990 heist at the museum, in which thieves stole 13 works by cutting them from their frames with a box cutter. Today, as the works have not been recovered, only the frames remain (swipe right for an example). ⁣ ⁣ These empty frames saddened me as they represented a loss of art in the public domain. Among the works was a painting by Vermeer, one of only 34 paintings attributed to him today. I wanted to learn more about how something like that can happen, and when I saw Stealing Rembrandts, a non-fiction book on notorious art heists, in the gift shop, I decided to pick it up. ⁣ ⁣ One part a lesson in art history, one part a true crime look at thefts of Rembrandt’s works of both high and (relatively) low value, I enjoyed learning more about the motives of art thieves (including debunking the myth of a rich evil collector stealing the works for his private collection), the heist itself, and the (often) subsequent recovery of the priceless works. My only complaint about this book is that I wish there was more detail on how the detectives tracked down and recovered the work—only a few of the retelling of the heists left me satisfied in this regard. However, I think that is largely a factor of art crime itself rather than the fault of the authors. Often, details of recoveries are not highly publicized due to thieves negotiating anonymity as a condition of the return of the works after the statute of limitations expires. ⁣ ⁣ Overall, Stealing Rembrandts was an interesting read, and I recommend it for anyone interested in both art history and true crime!

  22. 4 out of 5

    Theda

    This book is so much more than a chronicle of art heists. It: 1. focuses on stolen Rembrandts – paintings, etchings, drawings. Narrowing the scope allows time to present much more valuable and interesting information about this iconic and prolific artist. 2. recounts details of a number of noteworthy thefts, but also examines them from several perspectives: -- to “give a realistic and accurate understanding” of art crime -- why security is so often breached – the conflict between safety and access This book is so much more than a chronicle of art heists. It: 1. focuses on stolen Rembrandts – paintings, etchings, drawings. Narrowing the scope allows time to present much more valuable and interesting information about this iconic and prolific artist. 2. recounts details of a number of noteworthy thefts, but also examines them from several perspectives: -- to “give a realistic and accurate understanding” of art crime -- why security is so often breached – the conflict between safety and accessibility -- why these thefts – typically not a shopping list for wealthy criminal, but common thieves looking for buyback from the museum or insurance company, or to use as a bargaining chip in their own legal troubles, or as this imagined wealth of money to be obtained from selling them, which they seldom achieve because they don’t have the buyers -- that so often the, badly cared for and damaged, works are simply returned anonymously 3. uses the works as jumping off points to explore Rembrandt’s life – who he was, and why he painted what he did – and to explain how the Holland of his time, “the economic, scientific, and cultural crossroads of the world” influenced his work 4. also discusses the works themselves, their origin, their significance. and some of the social and cultural history behind them. I found this book fascinating, well-written and engaging. There was a wealth of information on Rembrandt so well woven into the narrative that I felt like I’d been in a mini art class – and I have a new-found understanding and appreciation of the artist and his work.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Nana

    Read this in one sitting on a plane - interesting, not too deep or long overview of a number of historical art heists where a work by Rembrandt was the target, with a focus especially on the mechanics of the heist & how (lax) museum security played into it. Doesn't give too much art historical background besides cursory sort of overviews which it may have benefitted further from, and some parts felt a little under developed (ie: the Isabella Stewart Gardener robbery is mentioned many times throu Read this in one sitting on a plane - interesting, not too deep or long overview of a number of historical art heists where a work by Rembrandt was the target, with a focus especially on the mechanics of the heist & how (lax) museum security played into it. Doesn't give too much art historical background besides cursory sort of overviews which it may have benefitted further from, and some parts felt a little under developed (ie: the Isabella Stewart Gardener robbery is mentioned many times throughout, but is never given a full overview, one suspects that the authors kind of expect you to know the details of it which, if one is an art/art crime nerd such as myself this may apply, but probably not to most). However, the authors do have some interesting insights and the interviews and quotes from the perpetrators themselves are a real treat to read. Plus, the style is not too dry nor too technical. It's a collaboration between a journalist and a museum security expert, and the play off each other well. Not the most compelling art crime book you'll pick up, but worth a read anyway.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Jeremy Cowan

    Brilliantly researched and passionately written with authority, Anthony Amore reveals the enormous extent of Rembrandt thefts worldwide. What characterises most of them is the failure of the thieves to make any money from the sale, which in turn jeopardises the art they have stolen. I was struck by the loss of these Rembrandt paintings, sketches and engravings as well as so many other culturally valuable works of art when visiting the Isabella Stuart Gardner museum in Boston, the setting for a m Brilliantly researched and passionately written with authority, Anthony Amore reveals the enormous extent of Rembrandt thefts worldwide. What characterises most of them is the failure of the thieves to make any money from the sale, which in turn jeopardises the art they have stolen. I was struck by the loss of these Rembrandt paintings, sketches and engravings as well as so many other culturally valuable works of art when visiting the Isabella Stuart Gardner museum in Boston, the setting for a major theft in 1990 - a crime that remains unsolved to this day. There must be serious fears for the artworks' well-being after all this time. Amore talks to a reformed art thief, and interviews others in the FBI and the art world to build a picture that debunks the myth of wealthy Master Criminals privately enjoying their art in Dr No style hide-outs. Some thieves are opportunists, some plan their attacks, but few show any appreciation for what they have taken and hidden from the world.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Roberta

    An interesting look at the behind the scenes world of art theft. I was surprised at how mundane the world is. And frustrating, and sometimes comical. It will always be a challenge to protect something that is meant to be available to the public. And how difficult it is to value and sell stolen artI am surprised that it continues to grow. Stealing is one things and trying to profit from it is another. I was also surprised to learn that there does not seem to be a mysterious series of billionaires An interesting look at the behind the scenes world of art theft. I was surprised at how mundane the world is. And frustrating, and sometimes comical. It will always be a challenge to protect something that is meant to be available to the public. And how difficult it is to value and sell stolen artI am surprised that it continues to grow. Stealing is one things and trying to profit from it is another. I was also surprised to learn that there does not seem to be a mysterious series of billionaires hoarding art (how to share, who wouldn't blab) or drug lords using art as collateral (sometimes but not often) The book is well constructed balancing interviews and research (which is woefully light - much stolen art is unreported) with the background of its main subject Rembrandt.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Connie

    “Timing is everything - in life, in art, and in art theft. Rembrandt was born into the Dutch Golden Age, a brief and supercharged epoch in which the Netherlands and the city of Amsterdam in particular were the economic, scientific, and cultural crossroads of the world. The seventeenth-century Dutch created the first stock exchange, multinational corporations, and central banking system. They were a shipping, trading, and colonial juggernaut who far outstripped England and France in global reach, “Timing is everything - in life, in art, and in art theft. Rembrandt was born into the Dutch Golden Age, a brief and supercharged epoch in which the Netherlands and the city of Amsterdam in particular were the economic, scientific, and cultural crossroads of the world. The seventeenth-century Dutch created the first stock exchange, multinational corporations, and central banking system. They were a shipping, trading, and colonial juggernaut who far outstripped England and France in global reach, and were on par with the rival Spanish on the high seas. With innovations in hydraulics, windmill power, and peat-based energy farming, and inventions like the sawmill, they led the world in shipping to Asia, India, and Africa, and in the array of goods hauled about the earth. A stroll along the Amsterdam piers was like a short sally around the globe. Free Africans and persecuted European Jews and Protestants mixed with Flemish dockworkers and high and mighty Calvinist officeholders and officials from the powerful and profitable Dutch East India Company. Warehouses were flush with pepper, nutmeg, silk, salt, ice, wool, exotic woods, beer barrels, tobacco, malts and barley, and plants, herbs, and flowers from places like Congo, Japan, Indonesia, and North and South America. It would not have been unusual to see a circus elephant or two roaming about (Rembrandt drew several of them). The Dutch guilder was an accepted currency worldwide. Even as fearless Dutch explorers sought toeholds from China to the Arctic Circle, eager European workers migrated to a land that embraced exotic voyagers and offered unmatched levels of religious tolerance. Thinkers like Descartes and Spinoza resided in Holland, marveling at the pioneering work of microbiologist Anton van Leeuwenhoek and land reclamation engineer Jan Leeghwater, among others. Holland was the world’s foremost book publisher, and pamphleteering and newspapering were common. Any individual with energy and ambition could find a route to comfort, even prosperity, in what can only be described as the Manhattan of its day. The seeds of egalitarianism that grew into the American Constitution and other great democratic documents were nurtured in Golden Age soil, and Rembrandt was a sharp observer of this cosmopolitan era. Had he been born into a more suffocating monarchical or religious system, it is hard to imagine his work and life would have been so varied, illuminating, and interesting. The timing of his career was a gift for the ages to come.” p. 167 to 168

  27. 4 out of 5

    Jesi

    I ended up skimming a good bit of this. Unsurprisingly, since one of the authors is the head of security at the Isabella Stewart Gardner museum, the main argument of this book is, "Art theft may look like a lucrative enterprise, but it almost never pays, so don't do it, kids!" What we get here is mostly stories of thefts in which the art was later returned (so, *not* the story of the ISG heist), and some background on Rembrandt, which is intended to help us understand why his works are so freque I ended up skimming a good bit of this. Unsurprisingly, since one of the authors is the head of security at the Isabella Stewart Gardner museum, the main argument of this book is, "Art theft may look like a lucrative enterprise, but it almost never pays, so don't do it, kids!" What we get here is mostly stories of thefts in which the art was later returned (so, *not* the story of the ISG heist), and some background on Rembrandt, which is intended to help us understand why his works are so frequently targeted. For me, the writing never came alive, and despite my interest in the subject, the book never managed to hold my interest for more than a few pages at a time.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie Matthews

    Wonderfully fascinating book, and an amazingly quick read overall. The only thing stopping it from getting a full five stars was the (frankly astonishing) decision not to look at the Gardner heist, probably the most famous of all art thefts featuring stolen Rembrandts. Perhaps because it's still unsolved? Who knows. For anyone interested in art, crime or art crime, this is heartily recommended. Wonderfully fascinating book, and an amazingly quick read overall. The only thing stopping it from getting a full five stars was the (frankly astonishing) decision not to look at the Gardner heist, probably the most famous of all art thefts featuring stolen Rembrandts. Perhaps because it's still unsolved? Who knows. For anyone interested in art, crime or art crime, this is heartily recommended.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Kasia

    throughout the whole book you can feel the pain the authors are feeling bc of paintings stolen from the world and srsly? #same this book is a great insight into real-life art heists and why it actually doesnt pay. my fav story tho is the Stockholm heist from 2000 where the thieves set two cars on fire, blocking the whole downtown so the police can't get to the crime scene fast and then they escaped by a boat with paintings. almost like a movie right throughout the whole book you can feel the pain the authors are feeling bc of paintings stolen from the world and srsly? #same this book is a great insight into real-life art heists and why it actually doesnt pay. my fav story tho is the Stockholm heist from 2000 where the thieves set two cars on fire, blocking the whole downtown so the police can't get to the crime scene fast and then they escaped by a boat with paintings. almost like a movie right

  30. 4 out of 5

    Giana Ricci

    This book is very informative and well-researched, just as if it was written by two men who have spent their lives obsessing over art theft, in particular those of works by the artist Rembrandt. While it is not all that thrilling of a read, parts of it are so preposterous that they can only be true. I found myself googling artworks, museums, and art thieves that were mentioned, just to get a look at them myself. Definitely a book for art aficionados or art theft connoisseurs.

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