March 18, 2012

St. Patrick's Day Celebrations Provided Distraction for the Robbery of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in 1990

Rembrandt's The Storm on the
 Sea of Galilee
is his only seascape.
by Catherine Sezgin, ARCABlog Editor

The Boston Globe highlighted the 15th anniversary.  PBS News hour noted the 20th anniversary (along with numerous other media outlets). Anthony Amore, the security director of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, has his contact information plastered on the museum's website to collect the lastest leads on the masterpieces stolen from Boston on St. Patrick's Day weekend in 1990.  Despite all these efforts and a $5 million reward for information leading to the recovery of stolen paintings by such recognizable artists as Rembrant and Vermeer, empty frames continue to save the spaces on the walls from where these masterpieces were hung by their benefactor.

In 2009, Ulrich Boster published a book, The Gardner Heist: The True Story of the World's Largest Art Theft and a year later the Federal Bureau of Investigation used billboards to get the public to help solve the mystery of the largest art theft in American history.  The thieves removed works of art highlighted by Vermeer's The Concert; Rembrandt's A Lady and Gentleman in Black; Rembrant's The Storm on the Sea of Galilee; Rembrandt's Self-Portrait; and Govaert Flinck's Landscape with Obelisk, and Manet's Chez Tortoni. You may view the images of the missing art on the website of Stolen the Film, Rebecca Dreyfus' documentary highlighting art detective Harold Smith's efforts and obsession to find the paintings.

Just after midnight, St. Patrick's Day celebrations in America's most Irish of cities provided cover for two unarmed men to enter the Isabella Stewart Gardner museum dressed as police officers and to leave 90 minutes later with 13 stolen items worth more than $300 million.  Unconditional immunity offered to anyone who helps locate or recover these paintings.