Independent Lens: Season 8, Episode 18

Stolen (20 Mar. 2007)

TV Episode  |  Unrated  |   |  Documentary
6.9
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Ratings: 6.9/10 from 75 users   Metascore: 61/100
Reviews: 8 user | 17 critic | 16 from Metacritic.com

In March of 1990, two thieves dressed as Boston police officers gained entrance to the Isabella Stewart Gardner museum in Boston Massachusetts and successfully executed the largest art ... See full summary »

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Title: Stolen (20 Mar 2007)

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In March of 1990, two thieves dressed as Boston police officers gained entrance to the Isabella Stewart Gardner museum in Boston Massachusetts and successfully executed the largest art heist in modern history. Among the thirteen priceless works stolen was Vermeer's "The Concert" one of only 35 of the masters surviving works. Not a single one of the works has been recovered. STOLEN is a full exploration of the Gardner theft, and the fascinating, disparate characters involved: from the 19th century Grand dame Isabella Gardner to a private detective obsessed with finding the art to a terrorist organization with a penchant for stealing Vermeers. Written by Anonymous

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Documentary

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20 March 2007 (USA)  »

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$6,250 (USA) (21 April 2006)

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$289,773 (USA) (21 September 2012)
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Of the three stories told here about the Gardner Museum art heist, one succeeds
18 October 2006 | by (Portland, Oregon, United States) – See all my reviews

Somewhat disappointing documentary about the still unsolved 1990 theft of 11 major art works from Boston's Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (5 Degas, 3 Rembrandts, one Manet, one Flinck and "The Concert" by Vermeer, which some say is the world's most valuable piece of unrecovered stolen art).

Ms. Dreyfus tries in vain to interweave three narrative strands: Mrs. Gardner's ambitions for her collection and her artistic sensibilities, glimpsed through excerpts from letters exchanged between her and Bernard Berenson, the famed American art historian, who represented her in the acquisition of paintings in Europe in the 1890s; stories about Vermeer's work and two of the Rembrandts; and the investigative efforts of a world famous stolen art sleuth, Harold J. Smith, who worked unsuccessfully on the case for 15 years, until his death in 2005.

Smith's sleuthing is the one subtext that receives adequate treatment here. He's an intriguing character - courtly, trim, well dressed, suffering from severe, facially disfiguring skin cancer, yet cheerful and temperate all the while – almost a Victorian sort of person in his own right. Conan Doyle might have dreamt him up. And through his efforts, we get to meet several infamous (though possibly now retired) international art thieves, and learn, among other things, that the Irish Republican Army has from time to time dabbled in stolen art for profit, specializing, it turns out, in Vermeers.

Smith died with a conviction that through the auspices of Boston Irish master criminal James "Whitey" Bulger (still wanted and at large), the IRA ended up holding and perhaps privately peddling the Gardner works. What struck Smith and some of the former thieves as uncanny is that the works did not come to light in the first couple years after the theft, or, more recently in response to the bait of a $5M reward.

There's a lovely little irony to this story: in many museums like the Gardner, minimum wage, untrained college kids were (are) often hired to guard art collections worth billions! My grades: 6/10 (B-) (Seen on 10/15/06)


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