The Gardner Museum Heist
On March 18, 1990 13 works of art were stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in the world's largest unsolved art theft ever. Today, the works stolen are valued at $500 million.
Let's Break It Down
To enter the museum, two thieves disguised themselves as police officers and claimed they were responding to a disturbance, which was believable because it was the night of St. Patrick’s Day. The security guards broke protocol and let the thieves inside the building. The burglars proceeded to lock the guards in the basement of the museum, handcuffing them to pipes and covering their mouths with duct tape. Then, the thieves committed the heist in about 81 minutes, an abnormally long time.
What was stolen?
For many of the paintings stolen, the thieves used a blade to cut the works out of their frame. Most notably, the Storm on the Sea of Galilee by Rembrandt and The Concert by Vermeer were stolen. The oldest work stolen was a bronze beaker. Interestingly, the thieves left the most valuable painting in the museum untouched: Titian’s Rape of Europa. Weirdly, the thieves removed a self-portrait of Rembrandt from the wall, but never stole it, leaving it on the floor. It is still unknown why they did this.
In 2013, the FBI confidently identified the two thieves as George Reissfelder and Leonard DiMuzio. Both men resembled police sketches and died within a year of the heist. Police believe that the thieves brought the art to Connecticut and Philadelphia and tried to sell it on the black market. Police are unsure what happened to the artwork after that.
Now, the museum is offering a 10 million dollar reward for the pieces to be returned. To remember the event and as a symbol for hope, the empty frames are still hanging in the museum. There is also a very interesting documentary on Netflix to watch about the tragedy titled This is a Robbery: The World's Biggest Art Heist.