On March 18, 1990, The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, Massachusetts, fell victim to one of the most despicable crimes ever in the art world. Despite 20 years having passed, the case still remains unresolved. Blair Stover has more on the heinous crime below.
Early Sunday morning March 18, 1990, the City of Boston received a mortal blow. Their sleek museum, the Isabelle Stewart Gardner, suffered the theft of 13 paintings by master artists Rembrandt, Degas, Monet, Vermeer, among others. The most valuable work was “The Concert” by the Dutch master Vermeer, an oil painting of 1660, valued at more than $250 million. The full amount of the stolen pieces amounted to more than $500 million. It seemed that these attackers knew what they wanted, or at least closely followed the indications of who hired them to make the assault.
One detail that confounded researchers for years was the abandonment of a Rembrandt self-portrait of 1629 in the corner of a second floor room, a great value. Today, agents are allowed to specify that the route followed by the thieves in the museum was, initially, orderly, but with the passing of the minutes this became chaotic and even absurd. In all retrospect, they either got what they came for or they missed some of the more valuable pieces by accident. Over two decades later, still no arrests have been made.
The Isabella Stewart is by far not the only art museum to suffer a blow. “La Gioconda” by Leonardo Da Vinci disappeared from the Louvre on August 21, 1911. It was missing until 1913 when it was returned. Since then, art lovers have lived a nightmare knowing that the enigmatic lady could be a forgery.
While the theft from the Isabella Stewart is newer than the missing Da Vinci piece, it remains one of the largest thefts from an art museum carried out to date and remains one of the most infamous of crimes in the art world.