On this day, March 18, in 1990, 13 works of art valued at perhaps $500 million were stolen from a Boston museum in the most expensive art theft in U.S. history.
In the early-morning hours, two thieves posing as police officers bound and gagged two security officers at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. In 81 minutes, they walked around the galleries, removing masterworks by Vermeer, Degas, Manet and Rembrandt, including the Dutch artist’s only seascape, “Storm on the Sea of Galilee.”
Investigators focused on the Irish Republican Army, a Boston mob boss and a notorious art thief, but the mystery remains unsolved. The paintings’ empty frames remain on display because Isabella Stewart Gardner instructed in her will that nothing be changed in the building designed to emulate a 15th-century Venetian palace.