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Friday, January 18, 2013

Book Review: Stealing Rembrandts by Anthony M. Amore & Tom Mashberg

Stealing Rembrants

Stealing Rembrandts: The Untold Stories of Notorious Art Heists
by Anthony M. Amore & Tom Mashberg
ARC, Hardcover, 272 pages
Palgrave Macmillan
July 5, 2011

Genre: Non-Fiction, Art History

Source: Received a copy through the Amazon Vine Program

“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.”

I have been a fan of art and art history since taking an art history class in high school. I have enjoyed reading novels based on the life of artists or works that they created, however this is the first book I have read about art heists. Art theft is extremely common, much more so that I had thought – apparently enough art is stolen to warrant an FBI art crime team! Stealing Rembrandts looks at some of the major art heists that have involved at least one work by Rembrandt as one of the victims. Rembrandt was a prolific artist and engraver/printmaker thus there are a greater number of his works on the market just waiting for an enterprising thief.

Despite the short length of this book it was packed with information. I think the fact that the authors both have written for newspapers keep their writing concise and brimming with facts. Anthony Amore is the Director of Security for the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, which was one of the sites of a notorious art theft that has yet to be solved. Tom Mashberg has written numerous articles about the Gardner Museum theft as well. The knowledge that they have between them regarding art crime is extensive. I cannot believe just how easy it can be for art to be stolen. When I think of art theft I think in the dead of night with all sorts of devices to get past – laser beams, alarms, guards etc. But the reality is that museums and private homes are notoriously under secure and many art thefts happen during the daylight hours. The statistics and methods of theft were absolutely shocking to me.

Each chapter of the book focuses on a different art heist – with a look at theft from private homes as well as galleries, both here in the USA and abroad. Some of the thefts are quite ridiculous and others are so well thought out. The authors even interviewed a man who has been involved in numerous art thefts, including one that is chronicled in this book – so you really get into the mind of the thief. Besides information on the actual thefts you get background on Rembrandt himself, his times, various of his works that were stolen, as well as other aspects of art history. It was a quick, entertaining, and enlightening peek into the world of art theft.

You can visit Anthony Amore’s website for additional information about one of the authors or the book’s website for more specifically about the book.

You can watch this interview with Anthony Amore for Harvard Magazine about art theft and the book:

Reviews of this book by other bloggers:

Some links related to this topic you might find interesting:

  • The FBI Art Crime Team page – you can learn about their mission and even look through their database of reported stolen art. Working for this team would be one of my dream list jobs.
  • The FBI Art Theft page – similar to the above but with a list of Top Ten Art Crimes, news press releases regarding recent art thefts, and links to other agencies art theft teams (such as INTERPOL).
  • A Web Catalogue of Rembrandt Paintings – compiled by a member of the faculty at the University of Amsterdam featuring the works that have been conclusively associated with Rembrandt.

Here are some choices for purchasing the book: Amazon, B&N, RJ Julia (my fav indie bookstore).


Copyright © 2013 by The Maiden’s Court


  1. I love books like this--sounds so interesting. I've read books that dealt with art forgeries, which is another fascinating topic.

    I'll definitely put this on my list.

    1. Art forgery is such an interesting topic. Some of them are so perfect that you can't tell they are faked and others are just so bad you can't believe they tried it.

  2. Thank you so much for this great review-I hadn't heard of this title before and am looking forward to reading it!

    1. It came out a two years ago now, but I don't really remember it getting a lot of attention on blogs around that time either.

  3. Forgive me if I've missed your review or forgotten, by have you read B.A. Shapiro's The Art Forger? After reading this, you'll totally want to read it -- it's a fictional account about a fictional painting from the Isabella Stewart Gardner theft being forged...really enjoyable. Will have to get this book now!

    1. I haven't had the chance to read it yet, but want to. I had the chance to go to an author reading in December, but ended up being sick and not able to go - otherwise I would probably already have the book. I will probably get The Art Forger on audio soon, hopefully! Thanks for the recommendation.


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