The Missing Rembrandt: Theft at the Gardner Museum

By Dirk Vanduffel - Tuesday, September 12, 2017
The Missing Rembrandt: Theft at the Gardner Museum

On March 18th, 1990, several important paintings were stolen from the Gardner Museum in Boston. The collection included paintings by masters including Vermeer and Rembrandt. Shock over the loss of the works reverberated through the cultural community around the world. Since that day, there has been a continuing worldwide search for the missing pieces, but the crime has still not been solved.

The Missing Rembrandt: Theft at the Gardner Museum

On March 18th, 1990, several important paintings were stolen from the Gardner Museum in Boston. The collection included paintings by masters including Vermeer and Rembrandt. Shock over the loss of the works reverberated through the cultural community around the world. Since that day, there has been a continuing worldwide search for the missing pieces, but the crime has still not been solved. 

Artdependence spoke to Anthony Amore about the on-going investigation:

AD: Can you tell us about the theft?

AA: On March 18th, 1990, at 1.24am, two thieves disguised as police officers requested entry to the museum. Against usual policy, the night guard allowed them to enter. Within minutes, the thieves had subdued the guards on duty and secured them in the museum’s basement. 81 minutes after entering, the thieves departed with 13 irreplaceable works of art including Vermeer’s The Concert, 3 Rembrandt’s and works by Flinck, Manet and Degas. They also took a Napoleonic Final and a Chinese Ku.

AD: What efforts have been made to find the missing pieces?

AA: The museum has been working diligently and without relent to recover the stolen works. This effort continues alongside the efforts of the FBI and the U.S Attorney’s Office. In 2013 we were able to announce that we knew who the thieves were, but none of the art has yet been recovered. 

AD: Has the museum ever been contacted and asked for any ransom?

AA: The museum has been contacted a number of times. There was a noteworthy letter sent in 1994. None of the contacts have resulted in recover of the works.

AD: What is the current status of the investigation?

AA: The investigation is active and on-going.

AD: Do you think the international community are doing enough to support? Is there any more that could be done?

AA: The international community have been very helpful in the effort to recover these works. INTERPOL is a great resource, not just for our investigation but for all stolen art worldwide.

AD: Are there any leads?

AA: New leads are always opening up. We follow every one of them to its logical conclusion. We receive many emails, letters and phone calls. At this point, we’re asking the public to contact us with any facts they have about the missing art, as opposed to theories. 

AD: Is there anything else you would like to share?

AA: There is a $10million reward for any information that leads directly to recovery of the artworks. I urge anyone with information about its whereabouts to contact me directly at theft@gardenmuseum.org or by phone on 617-278-5114.

Despite some promising leads in the past, the Gardner theft of 1990 remains unsolved. The Museum, the FBI, and the US Attorney's office are still seeking viable leads that could result in safe return of the art. 

The Museum is offering a reward of $10 million for information leading directly to the recovery of all 13 works in good condition. A separate reward of $100,000 is being offered for the return of the Napoleonic eagle finial.

Anyone with information about the stolen artworks or the investigation should contact the Gardner Museum directly. Confidentiality and anonymity is guaranteed.  

REMBRANDT VAN RIJN (LEYDEN, 1606 - 1669, AMSTERDAM). CHRIST IN THE STORM ON THE SEA OF GALILEE, 1633. Oil on canvas, 160 x 128 cm (63 x 50 3/8 in.) 

REMBRANDT VAN RIJN (LEYDEN, 1606 - 1669, AMSTERDAM). A LADY AND GENTLEMAN IN BLACK, 1633. Oil on canvas, 131.6 x 109 cm (51 13/16 x 42 15/16 in.)

REMBRANDT VAN RIJN (LEYDEN, 1606 - 1669, AMSTERDAM). PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST AS A YOUNG MAN, ABOUT 1633. Ink on paper, 4.5 x 5 cm (1 3/4 x 1 15/16 in.)

JOHANNES VERMEER (DELFT, 1632 - 1675, DELFT). THE CONCERT, 1663-1666. Oil on canvas, 72.5 x 64.7 cm (28 9/16 x 25 1/2 in.)

GOVAERT FLINCK (CLEVES, GERMANY, 1615 - 1660, AMSTERDAM). LANDSCAPE WITH AN OBELISK, 1638. Oil on oak panel, 54.5 x 71 cm (21 7/16 x 27 15/16 in.)

ÉDOUARD MANET (PARIS, 1832 - 1883, PARIS). CHEZ TORTONI, ABOUT 1875. Oil on canvas, 26 x 34 cm (10 1/4 x 13 3/8 in.)

LEAVING THE PADDOCK - EDGAR DEGAS, 19TH CENTURY. Watercolor and pencil on paper, 10.5 x 16 cm (4 1/8 x 6 5/16 in.)

EDGAR DEGAS (PARIS, 1834 - 1917, PARIS). PROCESSION ON A ROAD NEAR FLORENCE, 1857-1860. Pencil and sepia wash on paper, 15.6 x 20.6 cm (6 1/8 x 8 1/8 in.)

EDGAR DEGAS (PARIS, 1834 - 1917, PARIS). STUDY FOR THE PROGRAMME, 1884. Black chalk on paper, 24.6 x 31.4 cm (9 11/16 x 12 3/8 in.)

EDGAR DEGAS (PARIS, 1834 - 1917, PARIS). STUDY FOR THE PROGRAMME, 1884. Black chalk on paper, 26.6 x 37.6 cm (10 1/2 x 14 13/16 in.)

EDGAR DEGAS (PARIS, 1834 - 1917, PARIS). THREE MOUNTED JOCKEYS, ABOUT 1885-1888. Black ink, white, flesh and rose washes, oil pigments on brown paper, 30.5 x 24 cm (12 x 9 7/16 in.)

UNKNOWN. GU, 12TH CENTURY BC. Metal, 26.5 x 15.6 cm (10 7/16 x 6 1/8 in.)

AFTER. EAGLE FINIAL, 1813-1814. Gilded bronze, 25.4 cm (10 in.)

Dirk defines the overall policy of ArtDependence Magazine, in addition to conducting interviews. He specializes in valuation and auctioning.

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Museo Jumex (a private art collection based in Mexico City, Mexico) / David Chipperfield. Image © Simon Menges

Museo Jumex (a private art collection based in Mexico City, Mexico) / David Chipperfield. Image © Simon Menges

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