Photo: Kena Betancur/AFP/Getty Images
More than 30 years ago, in the early morning hours of March 18, 1990, two men dressed as policemen entered the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum81 minutes later they came out with works of art valued, at that time, at 200 million dollars (now valued at $500 million).
The two men forced night shift security guards into the basement and they placed duct tape on their hands, eyes and ankles. These were not discovered until the new shift arrived to relieve them around 8 am.
When the police examined the gallery, they realized that the missing paintings had been cut from the frames, rather than carefully removed. None of the pieces have been recovered so far.
13 pieces were stolen from the museum. The value of the pieces makes this the largest art theft in the history of the world.
Museum offers $10 million in rewards for information leading to the recovery of stolen items.
In 2015, the FBI stated that it thinks it knows who committed the robbery: George Reissfelder and Leonardo DiMuzio, but both died a year after the heist.
The FBI believes that the art was transported to Connecticut and Philadelphia through connections to organized crime to try to sell the items on the black market, but after those attempted transactions, there has been no trace.
The evidence suggests that the Italian mob in Boston was behind the robbery. Reissfelder and DiMuzio were known associates of the now-deceased mobster Carmello Merlino. At the time, members of organized crime seemed excited by the idea that they could trade a stolen painting for no jail time, if they were ever caught doing any more nasty deals. But several of them were caught, and no one seemed to know anything about the artwork. Several others died shortly after the heist and it seems they took their secrets to the grave. Even with the $10 million reward for the safe return of the items, no one has come forward with credible information.
Isabella Stewart Gardner stipulated in her will that nothing in the museum’s galleries should be permanently changed. No new items should be purchased, nor should items be sold. So for now, those frames hang empty in the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, a reminder of the artwork that is still missing.
Some think the items are hidden in someone’s attic. Others believe that the pieces have left the country and are hidden in the house of a rich man. Many assume that the pieces are separate and not all together.