Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Art Theft: The Gardner Museum, Boston

In case you were getting the impression that these art thefts always had happy endings, here’s installment three. You can read the first here and the second here.

In March of 1990 two guards were on duty late at night at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, Massachusetts. Two thieves came in, dressed like police officers, and tricked the guards into trusting them. The thieves tied up the guards and locked them in the basement before spending over an hour taking paintings from the walls. Then they took the security tape.

It’s not clear why the thieves stole the painting. Some think they had a list of works they were stealing for a collector because they took a wide variety of items from throughout the museum: 3 Rembrandt paintings, a painting by Vermeer, some sketches by Monet, a vase, and few other paintings and objects. The thieves cut the paintings out of the frames though, which damages the artwork. This is not something a collector would want. In fact, a collector would probably insist against it.

The total value of the works stolen was $300 million so the reward issued by the museum for the safe return, $1 million, was not as huge as it seems. In any event it didn’t bring the artwork back. The police had two suspect but both died before they could be tracked down. Later, the Gardner Museum upped the reward to $5 million.

So far, 18 years later, the art is still missing.


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6 comments:

Dorothee said...

Hi,
Very interesting post and blog! I love it. Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum is my favorite. It has a bit of everything and besides its couryard (in a spanish style) and exotic plants is so lovely.

Jessica said...

Thanks, Dorothee. I've never been to the Gardner Museum but one day, when I find myself in Boston, I'll definitely make it a priority to visit. You make it sound so beautiful!

Peter said...

That e.g. a Picasso painting is stolen is already terrible... but after all there are so many! That a Vermeer painting is stolen is a real drama; there are so few... and this one has not been found!

Jessica said...

Peter, great point. It's uncertain how many paintings Vermeer created because there was a very good counterfeiter who created fake works in his name, but experts estimate around 35. Only 35! It is a really huge deal that one was stolen and not recovered.

Peter said...

Yes 35 is what I learnt fro one of your previous posts (2 at the Louvre)! I saw the complete list somewhere. Together with a friend we have the intention to vist a few during the spring, including Delft / Amsterdam, maybe London...

Jessica said...

You take such fun vacations, Peter! I would be extremely interested to see comparisons between Vermeer's Delft and photos from today. I hope you get to go!