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FBI re-opens cold case of huge 1990 Boston art theft

Rembrandt and Vermeer paintings purloined

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

BOSTON, Massachusetts - The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has begun a new investigation into an unsolved art theft, committed in 1990 at the local Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. The FBI will ask the public’s help through a countrywide poster campaign. Despite a multitude of tips since 1990, the case which likely is the biggest art theft in U.S. history, remains unsolved.

On the night of March 18, 1990, thieves disguised as police officers broke into the museum and made off with thirteen works of art, including a painting by Johannes Vermeer (‘The Concert’) and three Rembrandts, including his only seascape ‘The Storm on the Sea of Galilee’, and a small self-portrait print. Also purloined were works by Manet, Degas, Govaert Flinck, and a French and a Chinese artifact.

The museum still displays the paintings' empty frames in their original locations due to the strict provisions of Gardner's will, which instructed that the collection be maintained unchanged.

It has been suggested that the FBI may have new leads after it dispatched an U.S. art dealer to Paris, France in early 2005 to meet with French police. Rumors have linked the art theft to the Mafia on both sides of the Atlantic as well. More information on the case has been posted on the FBI’s website The museum offers a $5 million reward for the return of the paintings.

The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum has a collection of over 2,500 works of art, including paintings, sculpture, tapestries, and decorative arts. The museum was established in 1903 by Isabella Stewart Gardner, a wealthy patron of the arts. Her 1892 purchase, in Paris, of the Vermeer painting, was her first major acquisition.