Monday, September 12, 2011

Book Review: "Stealing Rembrandts"

Stealing Rembrandts: The Untold Stories of Notorious Art Heists (Palgrave Macmillan, 2011), co-written by Anthony Amore (head of security at Boston's Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum) and Tom Mashberg (a longtime Boston Herald reporter who's written extensively on the 1990 Gardner heist) chronicles a few (really, just a few) of the many thefts of Rembrandt artworks during the 20th and early 21st centuries.

I'd have expected something a little less workmanlike from this duo; I've read many of Mashberg's articles about the Gardner case, and this has little of the liveliness evident in much of that earlier journalism. And it's a shame that the Gardner story (which involved the theft of three Rembrandts!) is relegated to passing mentions throughout the text, since who better to write about that particular theft than these two?

Don't get me wrong: the cases Amore and Mashberg do profile are certainly worth the attention, and they make for fascinating stories. The interviews with those behind a few of the heists alone make this a book worth reading, although simply printing long excerpts from the interviews might not have been the best approach. The historical background on Rembrandt's life, practices, artistic circle and the ongoing attribution scholarship are well integrated into the text.

The takeaways from the book are that thefts of masterpieces rarely turn out well for the thieves: in today's market there really simply isn't an easy way to sell them on, and keeping them long term tends to just result in damage to the artwork.

Another easy improvement would have been the addition of more pictures: eight pages of black and whites, which don't even include reproductions of all the Rembrandts higlighted in the text, was simply disappointing.

Overall: could have been significantly better.

No comments: