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September 1, 2015

Independent Lens: Stolen - an early look

by Adam Finley, posted Mar 3rd 2007 2:01PM

girl with a pearl earringStolen, a 2006 documentary by Rebecca Dreyfus and Susannah Ludwig, follows a group of men and women, most notably the late art detective Harold Smith, as they try to recover paintings stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner museum in Boston in 1990. Thirteen paintings were taken from the museum by thieves disguised as policemen, including Rembrandt's The Sea of Galilee and Vermeer's The Concert. None of the paintings were ever recovered.

The film focuses a lot of its attention on Vermeer's paintings, of which only thirty-five still remain. Those not familiar with the work of Johannes Vermeer may still recognize one of his more famous works, Girl with a Pearl Earring (picture on the right) which was not stolen.

Stolen is both a detective story and a love letter to classic art: as Smith delves deeper into the case, he begins to make connections with members of Boston's criminal underground and learns that the conspiracy to steal the paintings may even connect to the Irish Republican Army. At the same time, the documentary is peppered with statements from museum curators, art historians and authors who offer a better understanding of the importance of these paintings, and what was truly lost when they were taken from the museum.

Stolen will be showcased on PBS' Independent Lens series on March 20 at 10 p.m.

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Bash actually, I was just at the Mauritshuis a couple weeks ago. According to the audio tour, what is there is not the final painting but some kind of pre-painting (they had a term for it but I don't remember) that is used to sell the painting. However, the audio tour did give the location of where the actual painting was (I don't remember where) so, you are right, it has not been stolen.

If you can't tell, I am not an art person. I was there to see Dutch Parliament, but the Mauritshuis was right behind it, so I thought I'd go and see it. So my comment is based on nothing besides the free audio tour they give you when you enter the place.

March 07 2007 at 6:28 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Adam Finley

Bash: Clarification added. Thanks.

March 03 2007 at 7:00 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

meh too many errors. I hate that you can't edit your posts here, I always find typographical and grammatical errors after I post even though I use Firefox and it's built in spellchecker *sob*

March 03 2007 at 6:21 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I just wanted to point out that the picture you used for the arcticle of course is not one of those that have been stolen. I guess you know that Adam and while you named those that were stolen, it is not that clear in the article.

Girl with a Pearl Earring is displayed at the Mauritshuis in Den Haag. After reading the book and having watched the movie with Scarlett Johansson (the book is better, it's more descriptive and the movie does in no way transport the same deph the book does) I packed myself and my brother in my car and drove the 300 miles to The Netherlands to see it in The Hague (Den Haag) :-)

It is actually quite small - not much larger than a regular sheet of Legal paper (or DIN A4 if you can make more out of that size should you be from Europe like me) while the other painting displayed at the Mauritshuis, "View of Delft" is at least 10 feet wide and 5 feet high. The water reflections on the roofs of the houses portraied are, just like the small shiny spot in the corner of the girl's mouth, mere small specs of white colour, from afar giving a totally different impression - I guess you call that pointelism.

Overall it was such a great experience to be able to just look at both paintings for hours and should anyone of the readers ever be able to visit The Hague and Mauritshuis I strongly urge you to do what I did - stand in front of the paintings for minute after minute just taking this great art in.

Since then I always use an image of the girl as my desktop background on any one of my computers :-)
There are other paintings just as amazing at Mauritshuis, one by Peter Paul Rubens and Jan Brueghel where Rubens painted the people and Brueghel the animals. It is breathtaking.

Take a look at the official website:

or read up on Vermeer in Wikipedia

Art is so important but unfortunately so few people recognize it because it is not easily attainable. You really have to make an effort to get to it and discover it in a different way than being forced to back in school - although I am thankful that I was forced to see the David in Florence back when I was in Highschool (or better the german equivalent).


March 03 2007 at 5:59 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I remember seeing a trailer for this film some time ago and wondered what had happened to it. While the subject matter itself may appeal mostly to a niche audience, the mystery concerning the stolen works is quite compelling and the story should definitely be told. The fact that to this day, not one of the lost works has surfaced nor have any clues to the theft been revealed is astounding. These works have been lost to the world at this point and that is tragic.

The trailer for this film looked fascinating. Though it has been ages since I thought about this film I've lost none of my desire to see it. Thanks for the heads up, I will definitely have to catch this viewing.


March 03 2007 at 5:20 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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