In The Woman Who Stole Vermeer: The True Story of Rose Dugdale and the Russborough House Art Heist, Anthony M. Amore expertly combines extraordinary history with gripping true crime. Amore, author of The Art of the Con and director of security at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, is an authority on art crimes and homeland security. His new book recounts the life of heiress Rose Dugdale, one of few women in the world to pull off a great art heist. The book starts with her privileged beginnings in England and college years at Oxford studying philosophy and economics, and progresses through her radical transformation into an incredible art thief.
Rich in tantalizing details, The Woman Who Stole Vermeer is filled with personal anecdotes from those who knew Dugdale the best— old college friends, colleagues and political compatriots who all remember her as wholly original and completely fearless. Several dramatic events in Dugdale’s life led her to follow revolutionary politics, but none affected her more than Bloody Sunday in 1972, when British soldiers killed more than two dozen demonstrators at a protest march in Northern Ireland. From then on, she became dedicated to ending British imperialism and helping the Irish Liberation Army.
The reasons for Dugdale’s prolific art heists were complicated and surprising, but they were never selfish. In 1973, to help fund her political causes, Dugdale stole valuable artwork from her family’s estate. As her crimes escalated, she stole a helicopter and attempted to bomb a police station. In 1974, along with three other people, she entered Ireland’s Russborough House, which was then the home of a British Member of Parliament, and stole 19 priceless paintings, including Johannes Vermeer’s “The Lady Writing a Letter With Her Maid.” In striking detail, Amore describes how Dugdale was identified as the one who orchestrated the heist. Her subsequent arrest, theatrical trial and most dramatic crimes are also vividly explained. This exciting biography of a singular woman is for anyone who loves true crime, art, politics and history.