As “Monuments Men” mania brings interest in recovering looted art to a fever pitch, Amherst College’s Mead Art Museum has announced that it is teaming up with the FBI to reopen the case of a 40-year-old theft from the museum. Three Dutch paintings, worth an estimated $400,000, were taken on the night of Feb. 8, 1975. Since then, two works by Hendrick Cornelisz van Vliet and Pieter Lastman were recovered and returned to the museum, but the third — Jan Baptist Lambrechts’s “Interior with Figures Smoking and Drinking” (pictured in a black and white photo above) — has yet to be found.
Although no new evidence has turned up in the case, the museum’s head of security Heath Cummings, who was brought on in 2006, has stirred up new interest in the case. “I’ve been trying to do this since I came on here,” Cummings told the Daily Hampshire Gazette. “It was basically a matter of going back, looking at all the paperwork on the case, talking to people who had been involved in it, just slowly collecting data about it.” At Cummings’s urging, the FBI agreed to take a second look at the case.
“Anytime we get a request like this from the public, we want to do all we can to help out,” said special agent Geoff Kelly, who manages art theft investigations for the FBI’s Boston unit. “And today we have better resources for tracking stolen art than we did in 1975.”
— Ashton Cooper (ashton_cooper)
(Photo: Courtesy Mead Art Museum)