In 1986 Vermeers 'Letter Writer', along with 16 other old Masters, were stolen from the estate
of Sir Alfred Beit, an Irish diamond heir. The thief asked for a ransom of millions adding that if
he didn't pay he would burn the stuff. He was told to burn them ! However, with the assistance
of Scotland Yards Art and Antique squad, all paintings except one were recovered and in 1993
the Vermeer turned up in Antwerp. (Previous to its recovery the IRA had offered the Vermeer as
part payment to finance their weapon purchases!)
In 1990 at a value of more than 200 Million dollars, 12 paintings were stolen from the Boston
Museum. 'Concert' by Vermeer was among them.
Yearly in Europe alone 60,000 pieces of art are stolen, half of which are from Italy. The value of
the world wide stolen art is estimated to be somewhere between two and three Billion dollars.
Although the goods stolen from supermarkets and the theft from car and computer companies is
much more, since the 1980s art theft has become more and more popular among thieves who
previously dealt only in drugs or other merchandise.
An image databank of 70,000 pieces of this stolen art, called ART LOSS REGISTER is located
in London where the large auction houses of Christies and Sothebys together with Phillips and
Bonhams have about 70 percent of the worlds art dealing market. Added to this are about 12000
London art and antique dealers in London. These various companies work together to protect
themselves from the thefts which record every day about 12 new reports of loss. ART LOSS
REGISTER boasts of having recovered 650 pieces of art with the value of more than 28 Million
dollars, which is of course good for the owners but also for the insurance companies , who
together with the auction houses founded the organization.
Police have access to their information, but the police have different priorities. For example,
many of the 514 Picassos which are missing are fakes. This is of no interest to the police who
want only the criminals and not the artworks.
(Paraphrased information taken from, "Inspektor, mein Rubens ist weg",
DIE ZEIT magazine, Nr.45, Nov.3, 1995)
IS IT MORE IMPORTANT TO CATCH THE CRIMINAL OR RETRIEVE THE
WHO DO YOU BLAME IF YOU CANT FIND YOUR GLASSES ?
KEEP SEARCHING FOR THE VERMEER !!