Blog Subscription via

March 17, 2024

Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum Marks 34th Anniversary of Infamous Art Theft

Self-Portrait – Rembrandt van Rijn

As the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum prepares to mark the 34th anniversary of of one of the most infamous art heists in history, the enduring mystery surrounding the disappearance of thirteen invaluable artworks continues to captivate the public imagination.  Despite the passage of time, the mystery surrounding the stolen masterpieces, which include works by Rembrandt van Rijn, Édouard Manet, Johannes Vermeer, Edgar Degas, and Govert Flinck continues to endure, leaving investigators, art enthusiasts, and the museum itself still searching for answers, as well as the artworks. 

Chez Tortoni – Édouard Manet

In the early hours of March 18, 1990, two thieves disguised as police officers gained entry to the renowned museum located in Boston's Fenway-Kenmore neighbourhood. Over the course of 81 minutes, they brazenly stole a select group of paintings and and other valuable artifacts, including works by renowned artists such as Vermeer, Rembrandt, and Degas. The stolen pieces are estimated to be worth over $500 million in total.

The Concert – Johannes Vermeer

The heist not only resulted in significant financial losses but also left an irreplaceable void in the museum's collection and the art world at large. Despite exhaustive investigations and numerous leads over the past three decades, the whereabouts of the stolen artworks still remain unknown.

Storm on the Sea of Galilee – Rembrandt van Rijn

In an effort to keep the memory of the stolen artworks alive and to encourage any new leads, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum has been actively engaging with the public. The museum continues to offer a substantial reward of $10 million dollars for information leading directly to the safe return of the stolen works.  In addition to a proportionary share of the reward given in exchange for information leading to the restitution of any portion of the works. There is also a separate reward of $100,000 being offered for the return of the Napoleonic eagle finial. 

A Lady and Gentleman in Black – Rembrandt van Rijn

Despite remaining unsolved, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum remains committed to its mission of fostering appreciation for art and maintaining the legacy of its founder, Isabella Stewart Gardner. The museum continues to showcase its extensive collection, which includes works spanning various periods and styles, (as well as the empty frames, and serving as a hub for cultural and educational programs.

Three Mounted Jockeys – Edgar Degas

As the investigation into the 1990 art heist enters its 34th year, authorities and art enthusiasts alike remain hopeful that renewed attention to the case may finally bring closure to one of the most perplexing mysteries in the art world's history.  The FBI believes it has determined where the stolen art was transported in the years after the theft as well as the identity of the thieves.  In a March 18, 2013 press release the Bureau stated “The FBI believes with a high degree of confidence that in the years after the theft, the art was transported to Connecticut and the Philadelphia region, and some of the art was taken to Philadelphia, where it was offered for sale by those responsible for the theft.”

Cortege aux Environs de Florence – Edgar Degas

For now, the artworks remain elusive. However the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum and its supporters will continue to hold onto hope, awaiting the day when the stolen treasures are finally returned to their rightful home. So be on the lookout for these, and if you see them, please contact the FBI at 1-800-CALL-FBI (1-800-225-5324) or the museum directly or through a third party.  Tips may also be submitted online here.

Landscape with Obelisk – Govert Flinck

For now, ARCA reminds its readers of the enormous impact of this theft on the museum's collection, even as we remain optimistic that one day soon the paintings will be returned to their rightful place in the Fenway.

La Sortie de Pesage – Edgar Degas

An ancient Chinese Gru

A French Imperial Eagle Finial 

Program for an Artistic Soirée 1 – Edgar Degas

Program for an Artistic Soirée 2 – Edgar Degas