Dürer and Rembrandt Prints Suspected Stolen from the Boston Public Library Actually Just Misfiled

The investigation prompted the library to digitize its archive system.

Rembrandt's Self Portrait with Lowered CapPhoto: via Art Institute of Chicago
Rembrandt's Self Portrait with Lowered Cap
Photo: via Art Institute of Chicago.
Former library President Amy Ryan and Conservation Officer Lauren Schott hold the misfiled prints. <br>Photo: via Boston Public Library</br>

Former library President Amy Ryan and Conservation Officer Lauren Schott hold the misfiled prints.
Photo: via Boston Public Library

Boston Public Library staff have located two missing prints—Rembrandt van Rijn’s Self Portrait with Plumed Cap and Lowered Sabre (1634) and Albrecht Dürer’s Adam and Eve (1504)—that were reported missing in April 2015.

The Rembrandt etching, with an estimated value of $20,000-$30,000, and Dürer engraving valued at $600,000, had been misfiled within the library’s own archives.

Before the Police report was filed on April 29, the prints had apparently been missing for more than a year. Investigators from the Boston Police Department suspected theft, perhaps an inside job (see Rembrandt and Dürer Works Stolen from Boston Public Library in Suspected Inside Job).

Albrecht Dürer's <i>Adam and Eve</i>. <br>Photo: via Metropolitan Museum of Art</br>

Albrecht Dürer’s Adam and Eve, 1504. 
Photo: via Metropolitan Museum of Art

Under scrutiny, the library placed Keeper of Special Collections Susan Glover on paid administrative leave in April. Library president Amy Ryan announced her resignation on June 3rd, just one day before the prints were found, “to allow the work of the Boston Public Library to continue without distraction.”

Fourteen staff members undertook the search for the missing prints, combing through 180,000 of the print stack’s 320,000 items (which include prints, drawings, and chromolithographs), and nine offices, work rooms, and reading rooms over eight weeks. (Similar cases sometimes taking years to solve–see Fifteen Years After Theft, Alleged Rembrandt Painting Rescued by French Police).

Rembrandt's <i>Self Portrait with Lowered Cap</i><br>Photo: via Art Institute of Chicago</br>

Rembrandt’s Self Portrait with Lowered Cap, 1634.
Photo: via Art Institute of Chicago

Conservation Officer Lauren Schott found the prints, which have since been refiled, just 80 feet from where they should have been. The investigation has prompted the library to undertake the Systemwide Safety and Security Plan, which entails establishing an online catalog and a new item-by-item inventory.

“BPL is still committed to enhanced security and a full inventory,” said Ryan, the now-former president.

“But today is a day of celebration for the entire team at BPL. The staff couldn’t be happier after hundreds of hours of searching.”

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