This Sunday, February 8, 2015, marks the 40th anniversary of the Mead Art Museum at Amherst College 1975 art theft, a case that was reopened by the FBI and Amherst College in 2014.
On February 8, 1975, in response to an anonymous tip received at Massachusetts State Police Barracks in Northampton, Amherst College Police discovered a broken museum window and three empty picture frames. Museum staff identified the three missing artworks: Hendrick (Cornelisz.) van Vliet's The Interior of the New Church, Delft; Pieter Lastman's St. John the Baptist; and Jan Baptist Lambrechts's Interior with Figures Smoking and Drinking (pictured above).
The first break in the case came in 1989 during an undercover drug sting in Illinois. FBI recovered the paintings by van Vliet and Lastman, which were being offered as collateral in a drug deal.
In 2014, after years of research scouring museum files and College archives, Director of Museum Security Heath Cummings uncovered enough information to convince the FBI to reopen their investigation. As part of that effort, the still-missing Lambrechts painting is now listed in the National Stolen Art File.
"Exposure for a case like this is our greatest asset," says Cummings. "This case remained out of the public headlines for many years, and now with the great coverage and attention the case received when it was first reopened in 2014, the public has an opportunity to help track down the missing painting."
Cummings is hopeful that a lead of some sort will reveal what may have happened to the painting in the last 40 years. The ultimate goal is to locate the Lambrechts and return it to Amherst College.
Amherst College's Mead Art Museum is working with the Boston Division of the FBI and the FBI's Art Crime Team to locate and recover the painting. Anyone with any information relating to the theft or to the location of the painting is asked to contact the FBI at 617-742-5533, or online at https://tips.fbi.gov