For those who have read Isabella’s Painting, you know that I incorporated the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum heist, one of the world’s largest art heists in history, into the novel. A number of readers have been asking me about the new documentary, This Is a Robbery on Netflix.
First, yes, I have watched the miniseries. Second, from my own research done in 2016-2017, sadly, there is nothing new introduced into the documentary that I had not already discovered during my own research. Much of the material was available through old Boston Globe and other newspaper articles, previous documentaries, and material found on the FBI website or Gardner site. That being said, this documentary has done an excellent job coalescing the information and presenting it to the viewer in both an entertaining and interesting manner. The documentary focuses on the mafia connection theories. I suspect, one of the reasons the Gardner Museum was so helpful to the documentarians, was in hopes that it will shed new light on the case, and someone who knows or has seen the art will come forward. With a $10 million reward on the line, it’s possible this new documentary will encourage just that.
One possible suspect the documentary focuses on during the second episode is Richard Abath, the guard who buzzed the robbers into the building the night of the heist. During my own research, I was able to interview retired FBI agent, Robert Wittman, who worked the Art Crimes division over the years of the Gardner investigation. When I asked him why Richard Abath was never arrested, he told me Abath had undergone numerous polygraph tests, over years, and the results were either negative or inconclusive. They could not link Abath to the stolen artwork, even though the security system recorded Abath as the last person to enter the Blue Room, from where the painting Chez Tortoni was taken.
I imagine if any of the artwork is ever found it will only be pieces of it. At that time, artwork could have flowed easily and quickly out of the country. If it still exists, it is likely spread throughout the world. However, there is always hope the paintings will turn up, like the over 1200 Nazi looted artworks found in Cornelius Gurlitt’s apartment, 70 years after the war ended. Perhaps a grand daughter of a dead mafia capo will stumble across a storage locker, or hidden room filled with paintings. After all, stranger things have happened.