How Art Thieves Play the 'Irish Game'

British Journalist Details a World of International Larceny

  • Playlist
  • Download
  • Embed
    Embed <iframe src="http://www.npr.org/player/embed/3117141/3125064" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no">
  • Transcript

Listen: Listen to the Extended Interview

Cover of 'The Irish Game: A True Story of Crime and Art'

Cover of 'The Irish Game: A True Story of Crime and Art. hide caption

itoggle caption

In his new book The Irish Game: A True Story of Crime and Art, British journalist Matthew Hart pulls back the curtain on the world of international fine art thieves.

Hart begins his story in England, with the 1974 multi-million-dollar theft of several masterpieces from Russborough, the country estate of Sir Alfred Beit. He also describes an audacious second burglary at Russborough in 1986, carried out by the infamous Irish gangster Martin "The General" Cahill. Among the works Cahill made off with in 1986 was Vermeer's "Lady Writing a Letter with Her Maid." Also taken in the 1974 raid, the painting had been recovered and returned to the estate, where it was stolen a second time.

Through the investigation of the crime and eventual recovery of the paintings, Hart follows a seedy trail that ties into the Irish Republican Army and the global trade in illegal drugs and weapons.

This item is available for purchase online. Your purchase helps support NPR.

Hart also provides an overview of how fine-art theft has evolved over the past 30 years — his main example being the 1990 Dutch Masters heist at Boston's Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. The paintings and other artwork stolen from the Gardner are still missing.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.