Christina Nielsen, a curator at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, would much rather talk about a book called “Found.”

Instead, she is tasked with discussing “Stolen,” a new book that she helped write about the most the daring art heist in modern history. This is the only book about the theft that was commissioned by the museum itself. It tells the story from a curatorial context of the theft of 13 works of art, including three Rembrandts and Vermeer’s “The Concert,” worth more than $500 million. The heist on March 18, 1990, remains the largest unsolved art theft in history.

“Stolen” shows what the art looked like on the walls and explains why the loss of these paintings, drawings and sculpture matters from an art-history perspective. This isn’t a book about the theft and the ongoing exhaustive efforts to find the art. This is a book about the cultural treasures lost.

“When thieves robbed the Gardner of some of its greatest masterpieces, they deprived all of us of the chance to be part of this ongoing conversation,” museum director Peggy Fogelman writes in the foreword. “They relegated these objects to the past, to memory, far from the everyday encounters that keep them vital and connect them to our lives today.”

It’s published by Applewood Books of Carlisle, Massachusetts. Applewood is owned by part-time Mainer Phil Zuckerman, who has a home in Northeast Harbor. Applewood specializes in travel books and cultural tourism.

The museum commissioned “Stolen” to ensure the stories of these paintings are preserved in context with the vision of the museum’s founder and namesake. Nielsen and her curatorial team write about how the theft disrupted Gardner’s arrangement of the works, and the book presents photographs of the stolen paintings and how Gardner arranged them on the walls.

That’s important, Nielsen said, because the theft has shifted the narrative of these works from one about their aesthetic grace and beauty to one about their value and the effort to find them. The book preserves Gardner’s genius for display, Nielsen said.

“Isabella Stewart Gardner was an installation artist herself, with incredible vision. She put the collection together carefully, and thoughtfully curated the space. With any work of art in this collection, you can look at it on its own or consider it in relationship to other things in the room,” she said.

“Not only are we missing these incredible individual works of art, but people, when they come to the Gardner, are missing an integral connection between those works of art and other works. It’s leaving a hole not only on the wall, but also in the genius display that Isabella Stewart Gardner created.”

“Stolen” is a luxurious little hardcover, just 37 pages. The cover is a faux gray suede that is stamped with the textured of pattern of the wallpaper in museum’s Blue Room. The letter “o” of “Stolen” is die-cut to reveal a stolen Rembrandt.

This is a rewarding project for Applewood, Zuckerman said. For more than four decades, the press has published books for cultural travelers about history, people and places. Because of the nature of its specialties, Applewood has sold a lot of books in museum gift shops.

“That’s where cultural travelers go when they visit cities, so when the Gardner reached out to us to see if we’d be interested in this project, it was natural. It’s in our backyard, and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum is iconic for us, as was the theft,” Zuckerman said. “The idea of celebrating the art that was stolen really appealed to us.”

Staff Writer Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or at:

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