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Thu, 31 Oct

The Gardner Museum Heist: The Largest Art Theft in the World


A grave thing happened on the eve of March 18, 1990. This was the Gardner Museum Heist: The Largest Art Theft in the World. The museum was established in 1903 in Fenway-Kenmore, Boston. It is located near Boston's Museum of Fine Arts and is home to important pieces of Asian, American and European Art. There are sculptures, paintings, decorative arts and even tapestries in the museum. Today, the museum also holds concerts, exhibits, and lectures to better inform the public about art and about the heist that happened.



Isabella Gardner


The museum was once called the Isabella Gardner Museum. Isabella was one of the first females who lived and breathed the arts and so because of her love for the arts, she chose to establish the museum also in honor of her husband who is an artist himself. Over the years, Isabella travelled the world and met patrons and artists who were willing to have their works exhibited in the museum. The museum then became one of the most famous and most important museums in the United States and the world.

In 1919, Isabella suffered five strokes which eventually ended her life. But even after her death, the museum still went on and her money went to various causes and charities such as for animal welfare, prevention of cruelty to children, for the Industrial school of crippled children and as help to some struggling artists who really had the passion and talent. Isabella's love for the arts and her lasting legacy are some of the reasons why the heist is considered the worst art theft in the world. It meant that the thieves had no respect whatsoever to Isabella and to the arts because they did what they did without thinking of the implications.



The Art Theft


On that fateful evening of March 18, 1990, some thieves who dressed up as Boston Police entered the museum and took with them thirteen pieces of art. The men said that they showed up because someone told them that they needed some police officials' help. The guard on duty allowed them to go inside, believing their story. The thieves then told the guard to get off his post because they are now seeing him as a suspect.

He was also told to call the other guard on duty and so he did and the men handcuffed them and tied them up in the basement. The guards were left there overnight and were only discovered by the guard who was manning the morning shift the following morning. This guard then noticed that some pieces of art were missing and so he notified the museum's director.



Important Works of Art Were Stolen

The men were able to take with them some important works of art such as Storm on the sea of Galilee by Rembrandt, a Lady and Gentleman in Black, and Self Portrait. They also took with them Govaert Flink's Landscape with an Obelisk, Verneer's The Concert, and Eduard Manet's Chez Tortoni. They also took a sketch on paper, a Ku or a Chinese Vase, some works on paper by Edgar Degas and a part of the Napoleonic Silk Flag. All these made the Gardner Museum Heist: The Largest Art Theft in the world.



The Gardner Museum is Offering a Reward

Up until today, the Gardner Museum is still investigating who took the pieces. It is understandable that back in the day, the usage of a CCTV or any undercover camera wasn't practiced much and that's why it is hard to track who the thieves were. The Gardner museum is actually offering a $10 Million reward for those who could give accurate information to the whereabouts of the thieves and of the stolen pieces.