|By Eric C. Rodenberg
MIAMI BEACH, Fla. — Pieces from a private art collection – in which the value of the items taken could exceed $500,000 – are the subject of a national, possibly international, police investigation.
The items, including some highly unique discontinued pieces of Buccellati silver, were stolen from the residence of Jean Boulton, who is identified as the heiress of the late owner of an earlier airline company which serviced the country of Venezuela.
There is a reward of up to $25,000 information resulting in the recovery of the stolen pieces.
Boulton was out of the country, visiting family and friends in Venezuela when the items were taken from her home during the second week of May. The home, on exclusive La Gorce Island, was entered through a broken second floor master bath room window of the home to gain entry, according to a Miami Beach police report. Police believe the art collection was a main target of the break in.
“The pieces have a very sentimental value to Mrs. Boulton,” said Robert K. Wittman, the former FBI agent who led the agency’s stolen art crime team before his 2008 retirement. “She and her husband, who died in 1997, bought several of the items together. Their sentimental value goes well beyond financial interests.”
Wittman was called in by the family to assist the Miami Beach Police Department and FBI in recovering the pieces.
Currently, police have no suspects.
Photographs and descriptions of the pieces have been entered into the National Stolen Art File and the Art Loss Register crime databases.
“These pieces are very unique,” Wittman said. “On the larger pieces, it’s a pattern that doesn’t exist anymore. They can’t be replaced. That makes them very irreplaceable. It doesn’t matter, whether they’re going into France, Italy, South America they will be very easy to trace … in the art world, they’re very well known, they’re now registered as stolen … it’s going to be very difficult (for the thieves) to sell them.”
Buccellati gold and silver has a formidable history going back to the family’s first foray into the jewelry trade in the mid-18th century when Contardo Buccellati began as a goldsmith in Milan. In 1903, Mario Buccellati revived the family tradition and, in 1920, gained international fame exhibiting at Madrid’s 1920 Exposition.
Even on the second-hand market, “these things are not going to go cheap,” Wittman said. “A buyer might think they’re getting a good deal at $5,000, $10,000 or $15,000, but there’s no way its going to be a good deal.” It’s quite possible, even an unsuspecting buyer, could be left holding “an empty bag.”
Anyone having information pertaining to all, or any, of the stolen art pieces is encouraged to contact Robert Wittman Inc. at (610) 361-8929.