Robert C. Vose’s Favorite Story: Travels of a Lady

As told by Robert C. Vose, Jr. (1911-1998)

The Art News, October 5, 1929, 
mentioning Robert C. Vose's acquisition
of Rembrant's Portrait of a Girl Wearing
a Gold-Trimmed Cloak

While in Los Angeles in 1929, a client persuaded Robert C. Vose (1873-1964) to appraise a group of paintings in a monastery in Hollywood Hills. As Robert had suspected, the walls were filled with copies of old masters — until he reached the last small room. There on the wall hung a rare Rembrandt, one of the forty or more that had been attributed at that time to the seventeenth-century Dutchman.

Portrait of a Girl Wearing a Gold-Trimmed Cloak, dated 1632, had been sent to the Hollywood monastery some ten years earlier by the Catholic Bishop of Chur, Switzerland. The bishop hoped the Rembrandt would appeal to a wealthy Hollywood mogul.

Upon receiving word of Robert C. Vose’s interest, the bishop and his retinue of a dozen attendants spent a week in Boston negotiating the sale. Robert finally procured the painting for $100,000. A month before the stock market crash of 1929, the happy dealer sold the painting to Robert Treat Paine, a wealthy Boston collector, for $125,000. Paine loaned the masterpiece to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, where it was still hanging at the time of Robert’s demise in 1964. Little did Robert know his prized painting would continue its bizarre journey.

The Boston Globe, December 11, 1986, 
mentionining the auction sale.

In 1975, in a brazen noontime heist at the museum, two theives stole the portrait at gunpoint and pistol-whipped a guard in the process. The FBI worked for its recovery with a jailed rock group leader who had been charged with a series of crimes, among them art theft. Perhaps to avoid a prison term, the convict negotiated secretly for the painting’s return. Portrait of a Girl was soon recovered, miraculously unharmed, from the trunk of an abandoned car.

Eleven years later, the Boston museum was jolted when Paine’s heirs decided to sell the painting at auction. At a price of over $10,000,000, more than four times the highest price ever paid for a Rembrandt, Portrait of a Girl disappeared once again, this time to an unknown buyer who had submitted an anonymous bid.

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