A Discerning Eye: The Gardner Museum Art Theft with Carol Orange

April 2, 2021
Hosted by Diane Dewey

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Episode Description

On March 18, 1990 thieves broke into Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum and stole 13 works of art including masterpieces by such renowned artists as Vermeer, Rembrandt and Degas, in what would become history’s largest art theft. Thirty years later, the crime remains unsolved with none of the paintings recovered. This tragic robbery inspired A Discerning Eye [Cavan Bridge Press, October 13, 2020] a debut novel by Carol Orange, writer and fine arts consultant for over twenty years. The novel’s art heist mystery and high stakes international intrigue involves Interpol, the FBI, the Mafia, drug lords, and the daring, clever art dealer at the center: Portia Malatesta. As a Gardner docent Portia is devastated when she learns of the stolen pieces and becomes determined to help uncover their whereabouts. Skillfully, she constructs a psychological profile of the thief by analyzing a common thread in most of the stolen art. She suspects the mastermind behind it all is obsessed with the interaction of dark and light in both art and life. Orange believes, “There is an inherent tension between the shadowy and light sides of most people. Perhaps knowing or observing the shadowy side of life motivates painters to combine the portrayal of dark events with the hopeful promise of light.” When the FBI enlists Portia's help in a sting operation to recover the stolen works of art, she goes on a dangerous trip to Colombia, where she'll have to earn the trust of a notorious drug lord's daughter. With everything at risk, Portia navigates the country’s underworld and uncovers a complicated web of politics and pride, where one misstep could have deadly consequences... Orange utilizes her vast art knowledge and experience working in Latin American to craft a fast-paced, deftly plotted mystery where the fate of several of the world's most prized masterpieces are in one person’s hands. Fans of Donna Leon and John Le Carré will clamor for this action-packed tale filled with marital tensions, temptations, and twists and turns that will keep the reader guessing throughout. Drop In with us to learn about the inner workings of art crime and world class collectors and what makes it all tick!

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Diane Dewey

My most pressing question has always been about identity: Who am I? Growing up near Philadelphia with my adoptive family, my genetic identity was hidden. Then, my Swiss biological father, Otto, contacted me when I was age forty-seven in 2002. I’d been told by my adoptive parents that my biological parents were dead, supposedly to protect me. Meeting Otto upended my life. Through him, I met my German biological mother’s family to discover that her story too, had been changed; that she’d not wanted to surrender me and she’d searched for me all her life. Finding my truth was essential.

Based on my experience I am excited to talk to people about their own search for identity. My education includes a BA from Villanova University, a certificate from the Art Institute of Philadelphia and a Master of Science in Mental Health Counseling from Capella University. I’ve worked for The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, The SoHo Partnership and the National Academy of Design and have studied writing through New York University’s Continuing Education program. As an entrepreneur, I founded my art appraisal business, The Realization of Art in 2006. My non-fiction writing has been published in Shared Space, a monograph, and in Artes online magazine. Writing workshops worldwide have given me the chance to learn and hone my craft. My first book, “Fixing the Fates,” was awarded the National Non-Fiction Author’s Association Silver Medal and the Living Now Award.

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