Crime History, March 18, 1990: Boston burglars pull off $500 million art heist

Rembrant's "Storm on the Sea of Galilee" (Wikipedia)

Rembrant’s “Storm on the Sea of Galilee” (Wikipedia)

On this day, March 18, in 1990, crooks make off with $500 million in art from a Boston museum, the most expensive art theft in U.S. history.

In the early-morning hours, two thieves posing as police officers bound and gagged two security officers at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. In 81 minutes, they walked around the galleries, removing 13 masterworks by Vermeer, Degas, Manet and Rembrandt.

The thieves stole Rembrandt’s “Self-Portrait” as well as the Dutch painter’s “The Storm on the Sea of Galilee,” his only seascape.

Investigators focused on the Irish Republican Army, a Boston mob boss and a notorious art thief, but the mystery remains unsolved.  The heist is still the largest unsolved art theft in history.

The empty frames of the stolen paintings were kept on display because Isabella Stewart Gardner instructed in her will that nothing be changed in the building designed to emulate a 15th-century Venetian palace.

— Scott McCabe


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