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BOSTON--Officials at the Gardner Museum announced yesterday a $1 million reward for information leading to the recovery of a dozen art treasures stolen over the weekend.
Museum Director Anne Hawley said the reward would be paid, no questions asked, and indicated it could even be paid to the thieves if it led to the safe recovery of the art works.
She said that Sotheby's and Christie's, the international art auction houses, had agreed to underwrite the cost of the reward by using their own resources and soliciting help from the art community around the world.
At the same time, investigators admitted they had few leads in the theft and turned their attention yesterday to what may have been recent, similiar efforts to break into the Gardner and the Museum of Fine Arts.
About two weeks before Sunday's theft, the largest robbery of art in modern history with a value in the "hundreds of millions," at least three people took part in an apparently staged disturbance outside the museum in the early morning, investigators said.
One person pounded on the door, the same one the thieves used in Sunday's robbery, and begged to be let in to escape people he said were attacking him, investigators said. When the guard on duty refused to allow the man in, he got into a car with the two men who had supposedly attacked him and the group drove off.
Museum guards were being interviewed to determine whether any of those involved in the incident two weeks ago matched the description of the men who robbed the museum, investigators said.
The investigators, who spoke on condition of anonymity, also said the thieves removed video cassettes from the Gardner's surveillance system that would have shown them in the museum, indicating the thieves ahd a working knowledge of the security system.
In a separate incident Jan. 15, two men who appeared to be police officers tried to enter the Museum of Fine Arts when it was closed for the Martin Luther King holiday, William McAuliffe, chief of security at the museum.
The men said they were responding to a summons for aid and asked a guard to let them in, McAuliffe said. When the guard went to check with his supervisor, the men left.
"We're checking to see if they were police," McAuliffe said.
An ancient Chinese vase and 11 paintings and drawings by Rembrandt, Degas and Vermeer among other Old Masters taken early Sunday from the museum designed, filled and endowed by Isabella Stewart Gardner.
The doors of the four-story tanbrick museum were posted yesterday with signs stating that the museum was closed for the day. Entry was closely guarded while inside museum offices bustled with activity.
The perfume of fresh flowers drifted from the inner courtyard at the museum's heart, where nurserymen were installing fresh pots of flowers and flowering trees.
Museum officials said Monday that Mrs. Gardner's collection was only insured for restoration and conservation, not for theft.
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