For the first time in twenty-seven years, The Gardner Museum has authorized a book on the daring theft from the Museum of 13 priceless works of art, including 3 Rembrandts and Vermeer’s The Concert, together worth over $500 million.
In 1903, Isabella Stewart Gardner opened her extraordinary museum, modeled after a Venetian palazzo, for the "enjoyment and education of the public forever." She had amassed an impressive collection including some of the finest masterpieces by Rembrandt, Titian, Raphael, and Botticelli, as well as works by her contemporaries such as Sargent, Whistler, and Degas. The art works included paintings, sculptures, drawings and prints, furniture, ceramics, glassware, books, manuscripts and ephemera―all but 13 of which remain in place today.
In the early morning hours of March 18th, 1990, two thieves disguised as police officers talked their way into the museum, and tied up the night guards. They cut some of the paintings from their frames and stacked up others to take, leaving behind a priceless Rembrandt leaning against a chest. It is believed that the thieves “came for the Rembrandts”― but they also stole works by Vermeer, Degas, Manet, and Flinck, as well as a Chinese beaker and a Napoleonic eagle finial. Eighty-one minutes later, they were gone.
Stolen gives an inside look at the robbery and explores the impact of the missing works with commentary from the Museum’s Director, Curators, and the Chief Investigator. They describe how the theft, often called a crime against humanity, has affected visitors and disrupted Isabella Stewart Gardner's careful arrangement of the works. The book is highly visual, with original photographs of the stolen objects, as well as how they originally looked placed in the galleries. Stolen, the only book on the theft commissioned by the Gardner Museum, provides the context to a brazen heist that left one of the world’s great museums in search of its lost masterpieces.
The Museum is offering $10 million for safe return of all the works; the crime remains the largest unsolved art theft in history.
Learn even more about the art on WBUR's podcast Last Seen.
Published in 2018