Tuesday, March 16, 2010

20 Years Ago: Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum Robbery

"Boston art heist rattles investigators 20 years on"
The Associated Press (March 15, 2010)

"It remains the most tantalizing art heist mystery in the world.

"In the early hours of March 18, 1990, two thieves walked into Boston's elegant Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum disguised as police officers and bound and gagged two guards using handcuffs and duct tape. For the next 81 minutes, they sauntered around the ornate galleries, removing masterworks including those by Rembrandt, Vermeer, Degas and Manet, cutting some of the largest pieces from their frames.

"By the time they disappeared, they would be credited with the largest art theft in history, making off with upward of a half-billion dollars in loot far too hot to sell.

"Now, 20 years later, investigators are making a renewed push to recover the paintings. The FBI has resubmitted DNA samples for updated testing, the museum is publicizing its $5 million, no-questions-asked reward, and the U.S. attorney's office is offering immunity...."

The AP story ends with the URL of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum: http://www.gardnermuseum.org/. That immunity is subject to negotiation - but the priority now is to get those paintings back.

The thieves were caught on security cameras: but along with the paintings and at least one etching, they took the VHS tape with them.

One of the puzzles within the mystery is why the thieves took a painting of a man in a top hat by Manet: and left a much more valuable Raphael.

Without setting off a motion detector.

I hope that art gets recovered. Aside from the dollar value, there's the matter of making the 13 stolen pieces available for viewing by more than whoever (presumably) has them now.

Sure, it's nice to have your favorite paintings on the walls of your house. But these days there are pretty good reproductions available.

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