page contents ‘The Woman Who Stole Vermeer’ revisits the strange tale of a British heiress who became a notorious art thief – The News Headline

‘The Woman Who Stole Vermeer’ revisits the strange tale of a British heiress who became a notorious art thief

A ransom word demanded, in alternate for the artwork, part one million Irish kilos and the switch to a Northern Eire jail for Dolours and Marian Value, who have been on a starvation strike in an English jail, the place they have been serving existence sentences for his or her roles in London bombings the former 12 months. The Gardai who arrested Dugdale (whose wig and dangerous French accessory fooled no person) discovered all 19 of the stolen artwork in her ownership, amongst them works through Gainsborough, Velázquez, Hals, Guardi, Goya, Rubens, van Ruisdael and, maximum famously, the Vermeer portray “Woman Writing a Letter With Her Maid.”

“The Lady Who Stole Vermeer,” Anthony M. Amore’s engrossing new guide, is the primary deep dive into the odd lifetime of Rose Dugdale, the 33-year-old British heiress with a PhD who, on the time of her arrest, was once additionally sought after for gunrunning, a bombing strive and armed hijacking. She got here from a “Downton Abbey”-esque international of upper-class comforts. In East Devon, she discovered to seek along with her father and his British Military buddies, who taught younger Rose to creep during the grass like a soldier. Having a look again on her idyllic early life, Dugdale admitted it “was once superb coaching in rifle follow.”

Earlier than she fell in love with the Irish reason, Dugdale have been a opposite transgressor. She struck a cut price along with her oldsters that she would undergo a debutante season of balls and be introduced to the queen if they’d permit her to wait college. At Oxford, the place she studied philosophy, politics and economics, she crashed the all-male Oxford Union whilst disguised as a person (she dressed habitually in scruffy males’s clothes) to denounce their exclusion of ladies. She were given a grasp’s stage in philosophy at Mount Holyoke School in Massachusetts (her thesis was once on Ludwig Wittgenstein); the letter of advice from novelist Iris Murdoch referred to as her an “clever ‘all-rounder,’ ” who may just at some point be “an ready administrator or a just right college trainer.”

Within the overdue 1960s, Dugdale’s an increasing number of radical ideals led her to Cuba, the place she worked in fields, attended lectures and loved seeing “a revolution within the making.” She taught economics (and Marxism) whilst getting her doctorate on the College of London. Galvanized through the antiwar motion and the horror of Bloody Sunday in 1972, Dugdale started to contain herself in schemes supporting the IRA. Her militancy intensified right through her complicated courting with Walter Heaton, a married, British, self-described modern socialist to whom she gave some huge cash.

Dugdale started to concoct a chain of an increasing number of wild attacks on British imperialism. In June 1973, with Heaton and different accomplices, Dugdale stole artwork and silver from the ancestral manse of her early life in East Devon. When she was once captured and placed on trial along with her accomplices for robbing her personal circle of relatives, despite the fact that she furiously denounced her oldsters from the dock (affecting a working-class accessory) as “gangsters, thieves and oppressors of the deficient,” she on my own was once given a suspended sentence, the pass judgement on deciding the possibility that she would “ever once more dedicate housebreaking or any dishonesty is terribly far off.”

The next 12 months, with Heaton in jail, Dugdale were given concerned with IRA renegade Eddie Gallagher, who participated in her scheme to hijack a helicopter and use it to bomb an army barracks in Strabane, a Northern Eire border the city on the center of the Troubles. Dugdale’s cartoonlike plan to drop 5 milk churns, each and every full of 100 kilos of explosives, failed.

A month later, in February 1974, a small, beautiful portray through Vermeer referred to as “The Guitar Participant” was once stolen from Kenwood Space, a museum in Hampstead, England. A decision from a person with an Irish accessory demanded an alternate: the image for the switch of the Value sisters to jail in Northern Eire. A follow-up letter was once strikingly just like the ransom letter for the Beit artwork that will be despatched a couple of weeks later. Those artwork thefts have been neither approved through the IRA nor welcomed. The Value sisters sought after no a part of any deal. The small Vermeer was once left in a London church cemetery two days after Dugdale’s arrest in Eire. No one was once ever charged with that first Vermeer robbery, however Amore asks a persuasive, if evident, query: Used to be this Dugdale’s handiwork? His pursuit of an interview along with his enigmatic topic was once rebuffed.

When Dugdale was once sentenced to 9 years for the Beit robbery, she declared herself “proudly and incorruptibly accountable.” All of a sudden, she gave beginning in jail to Gallagher’s kid. They have been accredited to marry whilst imprisoned, the one time they glimpsed each and every different. Dugdale was once launched in 1980, and lately lives in Eire, an unrepentant smart elder of the Sinn Féin political birthday celebration.

Amore, the director of safety and leader investigator on the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, has assembled an intensive correction to the Rose Dugdale tale — despite the fact that it’s now and then overly granular and every now and then careless with Irish geography. The guide clarifies Dugdale’s seriousness and ideas, pushing again in opposition to the superficial, adventure-seeking socialite label that has paired her erroneously with Patty Hearst.

The privilege and social rank that Dugdale repudiated gave her the skilled mind and discerning eye that made her essentially the most infamous (and just about the one) feminine artwork thief in historical past. If she have been prepared to take questions, in all probability she would possibly have some perception in regards to the unsolved 1990 Gardner Museum theft, which has a lot in commonplace along with her Beit assortment heist. 13 masterpieces, Vermeer’s “The Live performance” amongst them, have been stolen, and feature by no means been discovered. The Gardner Museum is providing a $10 million praise for info resulting in the go back of the artwork. Assume what Sinn Féin may just do with the cash.

Katharine Weber, the writer of six novels and a memoir, spends a part of yearly within the West Cork village the place Rose Dugdale was once arrested in 1974.

THE WOMAN WHO STOLE VERMEER

The True Tale of Rose Dugdale and the Russborough Space Artwork Heist

Pegasus Crime. 272 pp. $27.95

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