On the night of March 18, 1990, a pair of thieves disguised as Boston police officers entered the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum and roamed the Museum’s galleries, stealing thirteen works of art.
They gained entry into the Museum by posing as Boston police officers and stating that they were responding to a call. The guard on duty broke protocol and allowed them entry through the Museum’s security door. Once inside, the thieves asked that the guard come around from behind the desk, claiming that they recognized him and that there was a warrant out for his arrest. The guard walked away from the desk and away from the only alarm button. The guard was told to summon the other guard on duty to the security desk, which he did. The thieves then handcuffed both guards and took them into the basement where they were secured to pipes and their hands, feet, and heads duct taped. The two guards were placed 40 yards away from each other in the basement. The next morning, the security guard arriving to relieve the two night guards discovered that the Museum had been robbed and notified the police and director Anne Hawley.
The Stolen Artworks
The stolen works include: Rembrandt’s Storm on the Sea of Galilee (1633), A Lady and Gentleman in Black (1633) and a Self Portrait (1634), an etching on paper; Vermeer’s The Concert (1658–1660); and Govaert Flinck’s Landscape with an Obelisk (1638); and a Chinese vase or Ku, all taken from the Dutch Room on the second floor. Also stolen from the second floor were five works on paper by the Impressionist artist Edgar Degas and a finial from the top of a pole support for a Napoleonic silk flag, both from the Short Gallery. Edouard Manet’s Chez Tortoni (1878–1880) was taken from the Blue Room on the first floor. See the image sheet for additional information.
Reward and Conservation
The Gardner Museum continues to actively investigate any and all leads related to the theft. This ongoing investigation is conducted by the Museum’s director of security in cooperation with the FBI and the US Attorney’s Office. The focus of the investigation today is on the return of the artworks. The Museum continues to issue the call to the holders of the works to conserve them in recommended temperatures and humidity levels. The Gardner Museum is offering a reward of $5 million for information leading to the recovery of these works in good condition and, with the FBI and US Attorney, can ensure complete confidentiality.
Images of Stolen Works
Click below to view a gallery of images of stolen works.
- Vermeer, <em>The Concert</em>, 1658–1660. Oil on canvas, 72.5 x 64.7 cm [Dutch Room - on a table by the window facing the doorway]
- Rembrandt, <em>The Storm on the Sea of Galilee</em>, 1633. Oil on canvas, 161.7 x 129.8 cm inscribed on the rudder: Rembrandt (sic). f::/1633 [Dutch Room – in a large frame on the south wall of the gallery, at right]
- Rembrandt, <em>A Lady and Gentleman in Black</em>, 1633. Oil on canvas, 131.6 x 109 cm inscribed at the foot: Rembrandt.ft: 1633 [Dutch Room – in a large frame on the South wall of the gallery, at left]
- Rembrandt, <em>Self-Portrait</em>, ca. 1634. Etching, 1 3/4 x 2 in. (Bartsch 2, Rovinski 2, Hind 57) [Dutch Room - on the side of a cabinet beneath Rembrandt’s <em>Self Portrait</em>]
- Manet, <em>Chez Tortoni</em>, 1878–1880. Oil on canvas, 26 x 34 cm [Blue Room – beneath the portrait of Manet’s mother]
- Degas, <em>La Sortie de Pesage</em>. Pencil and watercolor on paper, 10 x 16 cm [Short Gallery – on a cabinet]
- Govaert Flinck, <em>Landscape with an Obelisk</em>, 1638. Oil on oak panel, 54.5 x 71 cm Formerly attributed to Rembrandt [Dutch Room - on a table by the window, opposite the Vermeer]
- Degas, <em>Cortege aux Environs de Florence</em>. Pencil and wash on paper, 16 x 21 cm [Short Gallery – on a cabinet]
- Degas, <em>Program for an artistic soiree</em>, 1884. Charcoal on white paper, 24.1 x 30.9 cm [Short Gallery – on a cabinet]
- Degas, <em>Program for an artistic soiree</em>, 1884. Charcoal on buff paper, 23.4 x 30 cm [Short Gallery – on a cabinet]
- Degas, <em>Three Mounted Jockeys</em>. Black ink, white, flesh and rose washes, probably oil pigments, applied with a brush on medium brown paper, 30.5 x 24 cm [Short Gallery – on a cabinet]
- Chinese bronze beaker or <em>Ku</em>, Chinese, Shang Dynasty, 1200–1100 B.C. H. 10 1/2 in. Diam. 6 1/8 in. Wt. 2 lbs. 7 oz. [Dutch Room – on a table to the right of Rembrandt’s <em>Storm on the Sea of Galilee</em>]
- Finial in the form of an eagle, gilt metal (bronze), French, 1813–1814 H. approx. 10 in. [This originally sat on top of the pole support of a silk Napoleonic flag, which remains. Short Gallery – above a Napoleonic flag]
Anyone with information about the stolen artworks and/or the investigation should contact the museum Director of Security.
Director of Security
617 278 5114