Are the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum’s missing masterpieces in Ireland?

A Dutch private investigator dubbed the ‘Indiana Jones of the art world’ believes he holds the key to solving the most lucrative art heist in US history.

A European art advisor and part-time sleuth, Arthur Brand claims to have two good leads, which suggest 13 masterpieces worth US$500 million (£395 million) stolen from Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in 1990 are in Ireland. One lead is from a notorious Dutch criminal who showed new photos of the artworks in the 1990s in an attempt to sell them, and the other lead cannot be divulged.

We cannot say too much. But it has to do with the paintings and the IRA and the Netherlands”, Brand told Boston television station WBZ-TV. “Former IRA sources have told me or people that I know that there has been talk about these paintings for years within the IRA”.

Among the masterpieces stolen from the museum by two men disguised as police officers are Vermeer’s ‘The Concert’, which carries an estimated value exceeding US$200 million (£158 million) and Rembrandt’s ‘The Storm on the Sea of Galilee’. The museum doubled its reward for the return of the stolen works from US$5 million to US$10 million (£8 million) in May 2017, an offer which expires on midnight on 31 December 2017.

Brand’s reputation as an art super-sleuth was bolstered by his successful recovery of two enormous bronze horses commissioned by Adolf Hitler, which went missing after German reunification. The sculptures by Josef Thorak were thought to have been destroyed but Brand helped German police track them down in 2015.

The following year, Brand negotiated with two criminal gangs to recover Salvador Dali’s Surrealist work ‘Adolescence’ (1941) and Tamara de Lempicka’s ‘La Musicienne’ (1929), which were stolen from a Dutch Museum in 2009.

According to the director of security at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, it is aware of Brand’s leads and believes it has covered them. Meanwhile, Brand is said to be negotiating with those who might be able to secure the return of the masterpieces and insists his motivation is not financial.

The $10 million will not be for me. They can give me one beer. That’s enough… and we will celebrate all of us the return of these paintings”, he said.

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