The World’s Largest Art Heist


“…you have the perfect joy of having given to all the hungry people who have gone into Fenway Court…the nourishment and inspiration of undying beauty and light.”


~Gretchen Osgood Warren to Isabella Stewart Gardner, 1909

I have always had a love of true crime.  Usually it is serial killers and the like, but I am also interested in financial crimes, which leads to my love of American Greed on CNBC.  If you have never seen it, you should check it out Tuesday’s at 10pm. Anyway, they did an episode that really caught my attention because it was local.  On Saturday, I got to experience it for myself.

The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, MA is a beautiful place with an infamous past.  In 1990, it was the home of what was, and still is the world’s largest art heist. Thirteen pieces of art totalling over 500 million dollars were stolen in under 81 minutes by two unknown men dressed as police officers.  They approached security early that morning, posed as police officers responding to a disturbance claim. They then handcuffed both guards in the basement then proceeded to cut the paintings right out of the frames. It took two trips to their car to load all the art, then they were gone.  Neither the men, nor the art, have ever been found.

The Gardner Museum is beautiful.  It was the home of Isabella Stewart Gardner and holds her eclectic collection of art she found throughout her travels.  She was the wife of Bostonian Jack Gardner, and the heir to her father’s fortune. Known around Boston as the millionaire bohemian, her collection backs up that name.  She had many different tastes in art, and the rooms of her home reflect that. I think that might be why I feel such a connection with her, we are both incredibly random.  

The museum was completed in 1901, and shortly thereafter, she moved into the private quarters of the fourth floor.  This section is not open to the public even today. She personally organized and decorated the rooms of the museum and it opened to the public, January 1st, 1903. It was well received and people traveled from near and far to view one of America’s finest private collections of art.  It is one of those places where you get lost for hours and still not be able to see everything.

A unique decision was made after the art heist.  The museum decided not to remove the frames of the stolen artwork, and they are on display where they always stood.  Seeing the empty frames is very surreal. So much history erased. Please see the link below for information on the thirteen works of art. Find the Artwork here.

The museum is offering a 10 million dollar reward for information leading to the arrest or the recovery of the art.  Further information can be found on their website here: Gardner Museum

Photographs of my visit will be available on my Instagram, the link is on my Contacts page found here: Contacts

I hope you get a chance to visit the museum for yourself, it is definitely worth the trip.  Also, if your name is Isabella, you get in for free!


… Vermeer’s painting The Concert. One of only 36 by Vermeer in existence, this painting is the most valuable stolen painting—and perhaps the most valuable stolen object—in the world.

N. (n.d.). AN UNCONVENTIONAL LIFE. Retrieved from https://www.gardnermuseum.org/about/isabella-stewart-gardner-bio#chapter13

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