FBI’s Top 10 ART Crimes #2: Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum Heist



The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum Heist has been labeled “The Crime of the Century,” but although the crime itself was rather remarkable, the fact that the case has gone unsolved for more than 27 years is unthinkable.

On March 18, 1990, two armed police officers knocked on the gates of the museum claiming to be responding to a disturbance call. The guards let them in thinking that there must be a mistake. Neither man had called the authorities. When they tried to explain this to the uniformed men, the guards were informed of the truth. They had given entry to two disguised art thieves. The guards were marched down to the basement at gunpoint and handcuffed to the water pipes. Their hands and feet were bound with duct tape and their mouths taped shut.

The thieves then took their time and stole thirteen pieces of art with an estimated value of over $500,000,000. These pieces included Rembrandt’s only seascape The Storm on the Sea of GalileeVermeer’s The Concertand a Chinese bronze gu from the Shang Dynasty. Other pieces were stolen, but the strangest item was a bronze finial that sat atop a Napoleonic Flag. This bronze bird has brought on many unanswered questions. If this was a professional job orchestrated by an art connoisseur then why did they steal this bird?

isabella stewart gardner museum heist

Motion censors indicated the movement of the thieves, their trips to their awaiting vehicle to load their stolen goods, and their final exit. The entire operation took an amazing 81 minutes. 27 years later the case is still unsolved and not one of the stolen pieces have been recovered.

Recently there has been a stirring in this cold case in the news. A Boston gangster named Robert Gentile has been making headlines. This aging criminal has claimed, officially, to have no knowledge of the matter. However, privately he has told people he knows where the artwork is located. FBI investigators are hot on the trail of this and has searched his home twice. I will keep you posted on leads as they are reported.

As always if you have any information on these missing pieces please call


YouTube Video about the heist.

(I do not own the rights to this video. I am merely sharing it for public use)


Photo credits:

Museum Picture: By Biruitorul – Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4004123

Federal Bureau of Investigation Art Crime Team, Public Domain, via Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) @ https://www.fbi.gov/news/stories/5-million-reward-offered-for-return-of-stolen-gardner-museum-artwork


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