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Monday, June 13, 2011

Guest Blog - Robert K. Wittman

Mysteries and My Musings is ecstatic to have Robert Wittman (the founder of the FBI’s Art Crime Team,) as our guest blogger today. Robert is not only an expert on Art Crime and saved hundreds of millions of dollars worth of art and antiquities but he is an author. His memoir, PRICELESS: How I Went Undercover to Save the World’s Stolen Treasures, came out in paperback on June 7. ( buy here:

Please welcome the legendary Robert Wittman!  Applause and cheers.

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Who doesn’t love a good mystery?

In my memoir, I write about all kinds of art-crime mysteries I worked – a stolen Rembrandt, a swiped Monet, purloined Picassos. Some of these mysteries stretched back more than century; once, we rescued an original copy of one of the fourteen original parchments containing the Bill of Rights, a document looted by Union troops during the Civil War.

But one of my favorite cases was one of my first. I love it because, like lots of my cases, it contains two mysteries, each with its own cool facts.

In 1988, a thief cruised into the Rodin Museum in Philadelphia in broad daylight, drew a pistol, fired a warning shot and forced the guards to the floor. He made off with Rodin’s Mask of the Man With the Broken Nose, one of the most important early works of the Impressionist movement.

The story of how Rodin sculpted it – and why it was so revolutionary – was long a mystery. The answer, which I detail in Priceless, is, well…. priceless.  One of the most important sculptures in art history came to be pretty much by accident.

The second mystery was, of course, who done it, and why? The thief – spoiler alert –was an unemployed male stripper.

Solving the case of the Mask of the Man With the Broken Nose, launched my 20-year career with the FBI, much of it going undercover to rescue to the world’s stolen treasures.

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"In Priceless, Robert K. Wittman,  pulls back the curtain on his remarkable career for the first time, offering a real-life international thriller to rival The Thomas Crown Affair.

Rising from humble roots as the son of an antique dealer, Wittman built a twenty-year career that was nothing short of extraordinary. He went undercover, usually unarmed, to catch art thieves, scammers, and black market traders in Paris and Philadelphia, Rio and Santa Fe, Miami and Madrid.

In this page-turning memoir, Wittman fascinates with the stories behind his recoveries of priceless art and antiquities: The golden armor of an ancient Peruvian warrior king. The Rodin sculpture that inspired the Impressionist movement. The headdress Geronimo wore at his final Pow-Wow. The rare Civil War battle flag carried into battle by one of the nation’s first African-American regiments.

The breadth of Wittman’s exploits is unmatched: He traveled the world to rescue paintings by Rockwell and Rembrandt, Pissarro, Monet and Picasso, often working undercover overseas at the whim of foreign governments. Closer to home, he recovered an original copy of the Bill of Rights and cracked the scam that rocked the PBS series Antiques Roadshow."

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I am getting the audio version of the book so I can listen to it at work.  It all sounds fascinating.  I can't wait to find out more about all of his cases. 

Please leave comments and let Mr. Wittman know how much we appreciate his guest post!!

Below are some interesting interviews on national shows with him about stolen art.

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