Tom Mashberg Is Still Trying to Catch a Thief

From our Late to the Search Party desk

Former Boston Herald reporter Tom Mashberg has chased the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum art snatch from March of 1990 to, well, three days ago.

From Sunday’s New York Times Arts section:

Still Missing After All These Years

Retracing the long trail back to the 1990 Gardner heist


BOSTON — The hallway in the Brooklyn warehouse was dark, the space cramped. But soon there was a flashlight beam, and I was staring at one of the most sought-after stolen masterpieces in the world: Rembrandt’s “Christ in the Storm on the Sea of Galilee.”

Or was I?

My tour guide that night in August 1997 was a rogue antiques dealer who had been under surveillance by the F.B.I. for asserting he could secure return of the painting — for a $5 million reward. I was a reporter at The Boston Herald, consumed like many people before me and since with finding the “Storm,” a seascape with Jesus and the Apostles, and 12 other works, including a Vermeer and a Manet, stolen in March 1990 from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, a cherished institution here.

The theft was big news then and remains so today as it nears its 25th anniversary. The stolen works are valued at $500 million, making the robbery the largest art theft in American history.

What follows is Mashberg’s long tale of chasing leads down blind alleys, coming agonizingly close (think: paint chips), and largely getting blown off by the self-styled “experts.”

I wrote a front-page article about the furtive unveiling for The Herald — with a headline that bellowed “We’ve Seen It!” — and 01GARDNER2-master180stood by for the happy ending.

It never came. Negotiations between investigators and the supposed art-nappers crumbled amid dislike and suspicion. Gardner officials did not dismiss my “viewing” out of hand, but the federal agents in charge back then portrayed me as a dupe. Eighteen years later, I still wonder whether what I saw that night was a masterpiece or a masterly effort to con an eager reporter.

From there, the story just gets more tangled. It’s well worth the read.

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2 Responses to Tom Mashberg Is Still Trying to Catch a Thief

  1. william youngworth says:

    Tom Mashberg is a lying dog. The story about his viewing at a Rembrandt in a warehouse never happened..AT ALL!!!

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