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Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum theft

An empty frame hanging on a wall, between several portraits
The frame which once held Rembrandt's The Storm on the Sea of Galilee (1633)

On March 18, 1990, 13 works of art valued at a combined total of $500 million were stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. In the early hours, guards admitted two men posing as police officers responding to a disturbance call. Once inside, the thieves tied up the guards and over the next hour committed the largest-value recorded theft of private property in history. Despite efforts by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and multiple probes around the world, no arrests have been made and no works have been recovered. The museum is offering a $10 million reward for information leading to the art's recovery.

The stolen works were originally procured by art collector Isabella Stewart Gardner (1840–1924) and intended for permanent display at the museum with the rest of her collection. Since the collection and its layout are permanent, empty frames remain hanging both in homage to the missing works and as placeholders for their potential return. Experts are puzzled by the choice of paintings that were stolen, especially since more valuable artwork was left untouched. Among the stolen works was The Concert, one of only 34 known works by Vermeer and thought to be the most valuable unrecovered painting in the world, valued at $250 million in 2015. Also missing is The Storm on the Sea of Galilee, Rembrandt's only known seascape. Other works by Rembrandt, Degas, Manet, and Flinck were also stolen.

According to the FBI, the stolen artwork was moved through the region and offered for sale in Philadelphia during the early 2000s. They believe the thieves were members of a criminal organization based in the mid-Atlantic and New England. They also claim to have targeted two suspects, although they have not been publicly identified and are now deceased. Boston gangster Bobby Donati, murdered in 1991 as a result of ongoing gang wars, has been cited as a possible collaborator in the heist. Significant evidence suggests that Hartford, Connecticut gangster Robert Gentile knows the location of the works, although he denies involvement.


Visitors observing A Lady and Gentleman in Black at the museum in 1941

The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum was constructed between 1899 and 1901 under the guidance of art collector Isabella Stewart Gardner (1840–1924) to house her collection.[1] She amassed the artwork using an inherited fortune her father gained from the linen and mining industries.[2] The museum opened to the public in 1903, and Gardner continued to expand the collection and personally arrange works across the museum until she died in 1924. Her will stipulated that the museum and its arrangement should not be altered and no items were to be sold from or bought into the collection.[1]

The museum was losing money in the 1980s and was in poor condition before the robbery. It lacked a climate control system to protect the artwork, and an insurance policy against theft.[3][4] The security director at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston worked closely with the security director at the Gardner museum and warned him that the Gardner's security system needed improvement.[5] The Gardner security director was aware of these issues but was unable to get any significant improvements approved by the museum's board of trustees. The board lacked funding and was being mindful of Mrs. Gardner's wishes against any major renovations.[6][7] The poor security was known and discussed among guards that had worked at the museum over the years.[8]

The museum hired a new director in 1989 who ordered a review of the museum's security system, though it was not completed before the robbery.[9] The security desk was equipped with a closed-circuit television system with a cassette recorder and four cameras placed around the building's perimeter.[10] Another device at the desk logged when anyone tripped one of 60 infrared motion detectors in the museum. There was also a button behind the desk which would summon police if pressed; it was the only way to alert police to the museum. Other museums at the time had fail-safe systems which required night watchmen to make hourly phone calls to the police to indicate all was well.[11] There was no video surveillance equipment within the building as the board thought installing such equipment in the historical building would be too expensive.[3] The museum had only been robbed once before in 1970. Someone stole a Rembrandt self-portrait etching (the same later stolen in 1990), but it was returned a few months later when someone tried to sell it to a New York gallery owner.[12][13] No one was arrested for the theft.[13]


The Gardner Museum in 2018


The robbery occurred in the early hours of Sunday, March 18, 1990.[14] The thieves were first witnessed around 12:30 a.m. by several St. Patrick's Day revelers leaving a party near the museum.[15][14] The two men were disguised as police officers and parked in a hatchback on Palace Road, about a hundred feet from the side entrance.[16][14] The witnesses believed them to be policemen.[14]

The museum guards on duty that night were Rick Abath and Randy Hestand. Abath was a regular night watchman and it was Hestand's first time on the night shift.[10] The security policy maintained that the guards would alternate patrolling the galleries with a flashlight and walkie-talkie, while the other would sit at the security desk.[10] Abath went on patrol first. During his patrol, some fire alarms sounded off in different parts of the museum, but he could not locate any fire or smoke.[11][17] Abath returned to the security room where the fire alarm control panel was indicating smoke in multiple rooms. He assumed some type of malfunction and decided to shut down the panel.[11][16] He went back on patrol and before he completed his rounds, he made a quick stop at the side entrance of the museum, briefly opening the side door and shutting it again. He did not tell Hestand he was doing this or why.[16] The two men parked outside could have seen this occur.[16] Abath completed his tour and returned to the security desk around 1:00 a.m., at which point Hestand began his rounds.[16]

Guards are subduedEdit

At 1:20 a.m. the thieves drove up past the side entrance, parked, and walked up to a buzzer by the side door.[15][17] They rang the buzzer which connected them to Abath through the intercom. They explained to Abath that they were police investigating a disturbance and needed to be buzzed in.[15] Abath could see them on the closed circuit television wearing what appeared to be real police uniforms.[15][18] He was not aware of any disturbance, but theorized that as it was St. Patrick's Day, perhaps a reveler had climbed over the fence and someone had seen and reported it.[19] Despite orders to never let anyone into the museum, Abath let the men in at 1:24 a.m..[18][20]

The thieves were let into a locked foyer that separated the door from the museum.[21] They approached Abath at his desk and asked if anyone else was in the museum and to bring them down; Abath radioed Hestand to return to the security desk.[21][18] Abath noticed around this time that the mustache on the taller man appeared fake.[21] The shorter man told Abath that he looked familiar, that they may have a warrant for his arrest, and to come out from behind the desk and provide identification.[21] Abath complied, stepping away from the desk where the only panic button to alert police was.[21][18] The shorter man forced Abath against a wall, spread his legs and handcuffed him. Abath noticed that he was not frisked.[22] Hestand walked into the room around this time, and the taller thief turned him around and handcuffed him.[22] Once both guards were handcuffed, the thieves revealed their true intentions to rob the museum and asked the guards to not give them any problems.[22]

The thieves wrapped duct tape around the heads and eyes of the guards. Without asking for directions, they led the guards into the basement where they were handcuffed to a steam pipe and workbench.[22][23] The thieves took the wallets of the guards and explained that they know where they live and to not tell authorities anything and they will get a reward in about a year.[22][23] It took the thieves 11 minutes to subdue the guards, it was now about 1:35 a.m..[24][20]

Stealing the worksEdit

The frame which once held Chez Tortoni

The thieves' movements through the museum were recorded on infrared motion detectors.[25] Steps in the first room they entered, the Dutch Room on the second floor, were not recorded until 1:48 a.m..[24] This was 13 minutes after they finished subduing the guards, perhaps waiting to make sure no police were alerted.[24]

As the thieves approached the paintings in the Dutch Room, a device began beeping that would normally trip when a patron was too close to a painting. The thieves smashed it.[26][23] They took Storm on the Sea of Galilee and A Lady and Gentleman in Black and threw them on the marble floor which shattered their glass frames. Using a blade, they cut the canvases out of their stretchers.[26][27][28] They also removed a large Rembrandt self-portrait oil painting from the wall but left it leaning against a cabinet.[29][28] Investigators believe the thieves may have considered it too large to transport, potentially because it was painted on wood, not on more durable canvas like the other paintings.[30][29] Instead, the thieves took a small postage stamp-sized self-portrait etching by Rembrandt on display beneath the larger portrait.[13][28] On the right side of the room, the thieves removed Landscape with Obelisk and The Concert from their frames.[31] The final piece taken from the room was an ancient Chinese gu.[32]

At 1:51 a.m., while one thief continued taking works from the Dutch Room, one thief entered the Short Gallery, a narrow hallway on the other end of the second floor. The other thief joined soon.[28][32] In this room, they began removing screws for a frame displaying a Napoleonic flag, an effort interpreted by experts as an attempt to steal the flag. The thieves appeared to have given up partway through as not all the screws were removed, and ultimately only took the exposed eagle finial atop the flagpole.[32][33] They also took five Degas sketches from the room.[32][33] The last work stolen was Chez Tortoni from the Blue Room on the first floor.[25][33] The museum's motion detectors did not detect any motion within the Blue Room during the thieves' time in the building.[25] The only footsteps detected in the room that night were Abath's during the two times he passed through the gallery on his patrol earlier.[25]

As they prepared to leave, the thieves checked on the guards one last time and asked if they were comfortable.[34] They then moved to the security director's office where they took the video cassettes that recorded their entrance on the closed-circuit cameras, and the data print-outs from the motion detecting equipment. The movement data was still captured on a hard drive which remained untouched. The frame for Chez Tortoni was left at the security director's desk.[34] The thieves then moved to take the artwork out of the museum. The side entrance doors were opened once at 2:40 a.m. and again for the last time at 2:45 a.m..[35][34] The robbery lasted 81 minutes.[34]

The next shift of guards arrived later in the morning, but could not establish contact with anyone inside. They called in a security director who upon entering the building, could not contact the guards through their walkie-talkies, and called police.[36] The police arrived and found the guards still tied in the basement.[37]

Stolen artworkEdit

Thirteen works were stolen worth an estimated $500 million.[39][when?] Its value makes it the largest theft of private property in world history.[40] The eclectic mix of items has puzzled experts.[32][41] While some works were valuable, others were relatively valueless, particularly the gu and finial.[41] The thieves omitted several masterpieces; they did not enter the third floor where Titian's The Rape of Europa hung, one of the most valuable paintings in Boston.[25] Experts have called it the greatest Italian Renaissance canvas in the United States, and investigator Thomas McShane estimated its value at $300 million in 2006.[42] They also passed works by Raphael and Michelangelo but left them undisturbed.[28][32][33] As Gardner's will decreed nothing in her collection should be moved, the empty frames for the stolen paintings remain hanging in their respective locations in the museum as placeholders for their potential return.[43]

The most valuable painting stolen that night was The Concert by Dutch painter Vermeer (1632-75).[44] The painting dates to about 1663-66 and depicts a man and two women with a harpsichord.[44] The painting was Gardner's first major acquisition; she won it at auction in Paris in 1892.[44] It is one of only 34 known Vermeer paintings.[45] Experts believe it may be the most valuable stolen object in the world;[44] as of 2015, it was valued at $250 million.[13]

Other valuable works were taken from the Dutch Room,[46][47] where experts believe the thieves primarily targeted works by Dutch painter Rembrandt (1606-69).[46] These included A Lady and Gentleman in Black and The Storm on the Sea of Galilee.[48][49] The latter was completed in 1633 and depicts Jesus calming the storm as described in the Gospel of Luke.[50] It is the only seascape Rembrandt ever painted and the most valuable Rembrandt work stolen that night;[49][24] estimates have placed its value at over $100 million since the robbery.[26] The small Rembrandt self-portrait etching was the same item that was previously stolen in 1970 but returned soon after.[13] Landscape with Obelisk was painted by Rembrandt's pupil Govert Flinck (1615-60), but was attributed to Rembrandt until the 1980s.[51] It is possible the thieves mistook it for a Rembrandt.[citation needed] The last item taken from the Dutch Room was a gu about 10 inches tall and made of bronze. Traditionally used for serving wine in ancient China, the beaker was one of the oldest works in the museum, dated to the Shang Dynasty in the 12th century BC.[52][20] Its estimated value is only several thousand dollars.[32]

In the Short Gallery, five sketches by French artist Edgar Degas (1834-1917) were stolen.[53] They were each done on paper less than a square foot in size and made with pencils, inks, washes, and charcoal.[30] They are of relatively little value compared with the other stolen works,[30] being worth a combined value of under $100,000.[32] Also taken was a 10 inch tall French Imperial Eagle finial from the corner of a framed flag for Napoleon's Imperial Guard. There is a $100,000 reward for information leading to the return of the finial alone.[54] The finial possibly appeared like gold to the thieves.[45] The sole item stolen from the Blue Room was Chez Tortoni by French painter Édouard Manet (1832-83).[55]


The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) took control of the case on the grounds that the artwork would likely cross state lines.[56] They have conducted hundreds of interviews with probes stretching across the world involving Scotland Yard, Japanese and French authorities, private investigators, museum directors, and art dealers.[57] The FBI believes the thieves were members of a criminal organization based in the mid-Atlantic and New England, and that the stolen paintings were moved through Connecticut and the Philadelphia area in the years following the theft. Some of the art may have been offered for sale in Philadelphia in the early 2000s, including The Storm on the Sea of Galilee; however, their knowledge of what happened to the works after the attempted sale is limited.[58][59][60] The FBI stated it believed it knew the identity of the thieves in 2013, but in 2015 announced that they were now deceased. They have declined to identify the individuals.[61]

Sketches of the suspects

No single motive or pattern has emerged through the thousands of pages of evidence gathered.[57] Due to the brutish ways the criminals handled the robbery, cutting the paintings from their frames and smashing frames for two Degas sketches, investigators believe the thieves were amateur criminals, not experts commissioned to steal particular works.[62] Theories on the theft include that it was organized by the Irish Republican Army in order to raise money or bargain for the release of imprisoned comrades. Another theory states Whitey Bulger was the ringleader of the theft. At the time of the heist, he was Boston's top crime boss and an FBI informant.[57]

The museum first offered a reward of $1 million, but that was later increased to $5 million in 1997.[57] The reward is for "information that leads directly to the recovery of all of [their] items in good condition",[60] which remains on offer more than a quarter-century later.[57] In May 2017, the bounty was doubled to $10 million, with an expiration date set for midnight on December 31 of that year.[63][64][65] This reward was extended into 2018 following an outpouring of tips from the public.[66] Federal authorities have stated they will not charge anyone who voluntarily turns in the artwork, but anyone caught knowingly in possession of stolen items could be prosecuted.[58][67] The thieves cannot face charges because the five-year statute of limitations has expired.[58]

Loss of evidenceEdit

In 2010, the FBI announced that some evidence from the original crime scene had been sent to the FBI's Laboratory in Quantico, Virginia, for retesting with the hope of finding new DNA evidence to identify the culprits of the theft.

In June 2017, The Boston Globe reported that some of the crime scene evidence collected by the FBI was missing. Even after an exhaustive search, they were unable to locate handcuffs and duct tape used to immobilize the museum's two security guards that could have contained traces of the thieves' DNA material.[68]


In 1994, the museum director Anne Hawley received a letter that promised the return of the pieces for $2.6 million. If interested, the museum had to get The Boston Globe to publish a coded message in a business story. The message was published, but nothing further was heard once law enforcement got involved.[56]

In 2015, the FBI released a video from the night before the theft. Two men appear on the tape: one was initially unidentified, while the other was nightwatchman Richard Abath. The video shows Abath buzzing the man into the museum twice within a few minutes. The man stayed for about three minutes in the lobby, then returned to a car and drove off.[69] According to the WBUR podcast Last Seen, this surveillance footage is a red herring: the person Abath let in this night was his boss, the Gardner Museum's deputy director of security. Although this was apparently against security protocol (no one was to be admitted after hours), the other security guard present that night, claimed they were never instructed not to let in anyone at all after hours, which is the reason he and Richard Abath opened the doors for the two men dressed as police officers the following evening.[70]

In December 2015, FBI agents searched East Boston's Suffolk Downs horse racing track, acting on a tip consistent with rumors among Suffolk Downs employees in the 1990s that the stolen art was there. Stables, parts of the grandstand closed since the early 1990s, and two safes (which had to be drilled open) were searched without result.[67]

Investigation of the Boston MafiaEdit

The death of Raymond Patriarca and imprisonment of Gennaro Angiulo in the 1980s — both leaders in the Patriarca crime family — sparked a gang war within the family for control of the Boston criminal underground.[71] One gang was based at an automobile repair shop in Dorchester run by Carmello Merlino.[72] Investigators have called them the "Rossetti gang" because they were loyal to Ralph Rossetti and his nephew Stephen.[73][72] Another gang was run by Angelo Mercurio, Vincent Ferrara, and Robert F. Carrozza.[74] Among their associates was Bobby Donati who has been investigated as a prime suspect in the case.[75] Both groups had prior knowledge of the Gardner museum's security vulnerabilities, and both have been investigated for involvement in the robbery.[76]

Rossetti gangEdit

The Rossetti gang gained knowledge of the museum's weaknesses after gangster Louis Royce cased it as early as 1981.[76][77] He devised plans with an associate to light up smoke bombs and rush the galleries amidst the confusion.[78][12] When undercover FBI agents were investigating the Rossetti gang for a separate art theft, they learned of their interest in robbing the Gardner museum and warned the museum of the gang's plan.[79][80][81] Although Royce was in prison at the time of the 1990 robbery, the FBI believes his plan was the genesis of the realized robbery.[82] Royce shared his plan with others and believes Stephen Rossetti may have ordered the robbery or shared it with someone else.[83][84]

Robert Guarente and Robert GentileEdit

Among those associated with the Rossetti gang was criminal Robert Guarente.[85] He died from cancer in 2004,[86] but his ties with Manchester, Connecticut gangster Robert Gentile have been a focus in the FBI's Gardner investigation.[87][88] In 2010, Guarente's widow, Elene Guarente, told the FBI her deceased husband had previously owned some of the paintings.[88] She claimed that when her husband got sick with cancer in the early 2000s, he organized a lunch date with Gentile and gave him three paintings for safekeeping.[85][89] Gentile called the accusations "ridiculous",[89] claiming he was never given any paintings, and knew nothing of the painting whereabouts.[90] Federal authorities indicted Gentile on drug charges in 2012, likely in an attempt to pressure Gentile for information about the Gardner works.[91] He submitted to a polygraph test which indicated he was lying when he denied any knowledge of the theft or location of the artwork.[92] Gentile maintained he was telling the truth and demanded a retest. During the retest he said Elene had once shown him the missing Rembrandt self-portrait, to which the polygraph machine indicated he was telling the truth.[93] Gentile's lawyer felt that the veracity of Gentile's claims were being affected by the large presence of federal agents, and requested a smaller meeting in hopes that it would get Gentile to speak honestly.[93] In the more intimate meeting, Gentile maintained that he did not have any information.[94]

A few days later, the FBI stormed Gentile's house in Manchester with a search warrant.[95] Gentile's son informed them of a secret ditch beneath a false floor in the backyard shed, but the FBI found the ditch empty.[96] The son explained that the ditch flooded a few years prior and his father was upset about whatever was stored there.[97] In his basement, they found a copy of the Boston Herald from March 1990 reporting the theft along with a piece of paper indicating what each piece might sell for on the black market.[95]

Gentile went to prison for 30 months on drug charges. If he knew information about the theft, at no point did he opt to share it, which would have reduced his sentence or freed him from prison.[citation needed] After getting out of prison, he spoke with investigative reporter Stephen Kurkjian, claiming he was framed by the FBI. He explained how the imprisonment negatively impacted his finances and personal life.[98] He also explained that the list found in his basement was written up by a criminal trying to broker return of the works from Guarente and was talking to Gentile as an intermediary.[99] When asked about what could have been in the ditch, Gentile could not recall but believed it could have been small motors.[97]

David TurnerEdit

David Turner was another associate of the Rossetti gang.[100][101] When Merlino was arrested for cocaine trafficking in 1992, he told Turner to try and recover the stolen paintings. Turner searched but could not locate them, only hearing that they were in a church in South Boston.[102][103] Another arrested associate told authorities about Turner's involvement in several break-ins, but did not mention the Gardner heist.[103] After Merlino was freed from jail later in the 1990s, he organized the robbery of an armored van headquarters including several associates and among them was Turner.[104] After the heist was foiled in a sting operation, Turner felt convinced the FBI let the plot proceed so they could use his arrest to put pressure on him to reveal information about the Gardner paintings. He claimed he had no information.[105] The men were sent to prison in 2002, Turner's expected release is 2025.[105][106]

Despite his claims of innocence, the FBI believes he may have been one of the thieves.[107][108] Evidence indicates that he went to Florida to pick up a cocaine order just days before the heist,[109] and credit card records suggest he remained there through the night of the robbery,[110][111] but some investigators believe this may have been Turner's attempt at creating an alibi.[citation needed] The FBI think the other thief was his friend George Reissfelder who also operated with the Rossetti gang.[108] He died in July 1991.[112] No clues were found in his apartment or the homes of friends and relatives,[108][112] but his siblings recall a painting similar to Chez Tortoni in his bedroom.[108]

Turner knew Gentile through Guarente, and in November 2010, wrote a letter to Gentile about the Gardner theft. He asked Gentile if he could call Turner's former girlfriend to assist in recovering the Gardner paintings.[113] In cooperation with the FBI, Gentile spoke with Turner's girlfriend, and she told him that Turner wanted him to speak with two of his ex-convict friends in Boston.[114] The FBI wanted Gentile to meet the men and send an FBI undercover agent with him, but Gentile did not want to cooperate further.[114]

Bobby DonatiEdit

Bobby Donati in an undated photo

In 2014, investigative reporter Stephen Kurkjian wrote to gangster Vincent Ferrara inquiring if he had information about the Gardner theft. Kurkjian received a call back from an associate of Ferrara who explained the FBI was wrong in suspecting the Rossetti gang's involvement and claimed that Ferrara's associate Bobby Donati organized the robbery.[115] The caller explained that Donati visited Ferrara in jail about three months before the theft, after the latter was charged for murder,[116] and told Ferrara that he was going to do something to get him out of jail.[117] Three months later, Ferrara heard news about the Gardner theft,[117] after which Donati visited him again and confirmed to Ferrara that he was involved in the robbery.[118] He claimed to have buried the artwork and would start a negotiation for his release once the investigation cooled down.[119] The negotiations never occurred because Donati was murdered in September 1991.[119] Kurkjian believes Donati was motivated to free Ferrara from prison because Ferrara could protect Donati in the gang war.[120] A friend of Guarente also corroborated that Donati organized the robbery, and that Donati gave paintings to Guarente when he became concerned for his own safety.[121] Donati was close friends with Guarente.[122] The two were seen at a social club in Revere shortly before the robbery with a bag of police uniforms.[122]

Art thief Myles J. Connor Jr. also believes Donati organized the robbery.[75] Connor was notorious New England art thief,[123] and had worked with Donati in past art heists.[124] Connor claimed the two cased the Gardner museum in the past[125][126] and that Donati took interest in the finial.[125] Connor was in jail at the time of the heist,[125] but he told authorities that he believed the masterminds were Donati and criminal David Houghton.[125] Houghton visited Connor in jail after the heist and said that he and Donati organized it and, like Donati told Ferrara, were going to use the paintings to get Connor out of jail.[124] Donati and Houghton likely took note of how Connor returned art to reduce sentences in the past and put it to practice with the Gardner theft.[126] Even though Donati's and Houghton's appearances did not fit the witness descriptions, Connor suggested they probably hired lower-level gangsters to carry out the robbery.[125] Like Donati, Houghton also died within two years of the robbery, though from an illness rather than murder.[125] Connor told investigators he could assist in returning the Gardner works in exchange for the museum's posted reward and his freedom.[125] When investigators did not give into Connor's demands because of lack of evidence, he suggested they speak with criminal William P. Youngworth.[125]

Acting on Connor's lead, FBI raided Youngworth's home in 1997.[127][123] The raid caught the attention of journalist Tom Mashberg, who began talking with Youngworth that year about the theft.[127][123] One night in August 1997, Youngworth called Mashberg and told him he had proof he could return the Gardner paintings under the right conditions.[128] That night, Youngworth picked up Mashberg from the Boston Herald offices and drove him to a warehouse in Red Hook, Brooklyn.[128][129] Youngworth led him inside to a storage unit with several large cylinder tubes. He removed one painting from its tube, unfurled it, and showed it to Mashberg under flashlight. It appeared to Mashberg to be The Storm on the Sea of Galilee. He noticed cracking along the canvas and the edges were cut in a manner consistent with the museum's reports.[130] Mashberg wrote about his experience in the Boston Herald, leaving out details to hide Youngworth's identity and the painting's location.[131] He reported that his "informant" (presumably Youngworth) told him the robbery was pulled off by five men and identified two: Donati was one of the robbers, and Houghton was responsible with moving the art to a safe house.[132] The FBI discovered the location of the warehouse several months later and raided it, finding nothing.[133]

The veracity of Youngworth's claims and the authenticity of the painting shown to Mashberg is disputed.[134] Youngworth supplied paint chips to Mashberg, and federal authorities reported that they were indeed from Rembrandt's era, but did not match oils used for The Storm on the Sea of Galilee.[134] The way Mashberg described the painting as being "unfurled" has also been scrutinized, as the stolen painting was covered with a heavy varnish that would not roll easily.[134] Federal authorities and the museum began working with Youngworth after Mashberg's story was published, but Youngworth made negotiations difficult.[133] He would not work with authorities unless his demands could be met, which included dropping charges against him and releasing Connor from jail.[133][135] The museum loaned $10,000 to Youngworth at his request to continue pursing the art, but it was never repaid.[135] The United States attorney overseeing the case eventually ceased talks with Youngworth unless he could provide more reliable evidence that he had access to the Gardner works.[133] Youngworth again provided a vial of paint chips, purportedly from The Storm on the Sea of Galilee, and 25 color photographs of the painting and A Lady and Gentleman in Black.[136] A joint statement from the museum and federal investigators announced that the chips were not from the stolen Rembrandts, though they did test as being from 17th century paintings and could potentially be from The Concert.[137] Mashberg's account remains the most credible possible sighting of any of the stolen works.[134]

In popular cultureEdit

The high-profile Gardner Museum theft has been referenced and parodied in many different works. It was the subject of the 2005 documentary Stolen, which first appeared in a slightly different version on Court TV.[138] The more well-known paintings have been referenced in multiple TV shows, including The Blacklist episode "The Courier" (and an allusion to the Gardner Museum heist itself in the episode "Greyson Blaise"),[139] The Simpsons episode "American History X-cellent",[140] Drunk History episode "Boston",[141] Season 3 of Sneaky Pete,[142] and American Greed.[143]

Several books were written by former investigators: Artful Deception (2012) by James J. McGovern; Priceless: How I Went Undercover to Rescue the World's Stolen Treasures (2010), by Robert Wittman and John Shiffman; and Stolen Masterpiece Tracker (2006) by Thomas McShane.[144][145][146]

Journalist Ulrich Boser wrote a book called The Gardner Heist (2009), leaning heavily on the documented investigation of Harold Smith, an insurance underwriter who worked on art cases. Boser's book is the best-selling book on the topic and also the most widely acclaimed. In it, he points the finger at a gang of thieves out of Dorchester, Massachusetts, as the most likely culprits. It is this theory that has been adopted by a number of stories that came after.[147] Stephen Kurkjian, a reporter for The Boston Globe, has written a book about his experience titled Master Thieves: The Boston Gangsters Who Pulled Off the World's Greatest Art Heist (2015).[56]

The theft features in the novel The Art Forger (2012) by B.A. Shapiro.[148]

In 2018, The Boston Globe and WBUR-FM launched a podcast exploring the theft, titled Last Seen.[149]


  1. ^ The museum believes A Lady and Gentleman in Black to be a Rembrandt; however some scholars including the Rembrandt Research Project in Amsterdam, say it is not.[38]


  1. ^ a b "Isabella Stewart Gardner". Retrieved September 29, 2019.
  2. ^ Wittman 2010, p. 246.
  3. ^ a b Kurkjian 2015, p. 34.
  4. ^ Kurkjian 2015, p. 36.
  5. ^ Kurkjian 2015, p. 32.
  6. ^ Kurkjian 2015, p. 33.
  7. ^ Kurkjian 2015, p. 37.
  8. ^ Kurkjian 2015, p. 46.
  9. ^ Wittman 2010, p. 253.
  10. ^ a b c Kurkjian 2015, p. 40.
  11. ^ a b c Kurkjian 2015, p. 41.
  12. ^ a b Kurkjian 2015, p. 24.
  13. ^ a b c d e Kurkjian 2015, p. 50.
  14. ^ a b c d Boser 2009, p. 1.
  15. ^ a b c d Kurkjian 2015, p. 43.
  16. ^ a b c d e Kurkjian 2015, p. 42.
  17. ^ a b Boser 2009, p. 3.
  18. ^ a b c d Boser 2009, p. 4.
  19. ^ Kurkjian 2015, p. 43-44.
  20. ^ a b c McShane 2006, p. 250.
  21. ^ a b c d e Kurkjian 2015, p. 44.
  22. ^ a b c d e Kurkjian 2015, p. 45.
  23. ^ a b c Boser 2009, p. 5.
  24. ^ a b c d Kurkjian 2015, p. 48.
  25. ^ a b c d e Kurkjian 2015, p. 53.
  26. ^ a b c Kurkjian 2015, p. 49.
  27. ^ Boser 2009, p. 6.
  28. ^ a b c d e Boser 2009, p. 7.
  29. ^ a b Kurkjian 2015, p. 49-50.
  30. ^ a b c McShane 2006, p. 251.
  31. ^ Kurkjian 2015, p. 50-51.
  32. ^ a b c d e f g h Kurkjian 2015, p. 51.
  33. ^ a b c d Boser 2009, p. 8.
  34. ^ a b c d Boser 2009, p. 9.
  35. ^ Kurkjian 2015, p. 58.
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  • Kurkjian, Stephen (2015). Master Thieves: The Boston Gangsters Who Pulled Off the World's Greatest Art Heist. New York: PublicAffairs. ISBN 978-1-61039-632-5.
  • Boser, Ulrich (2009). The Gardner Heist: The True Story of the World's Largest Unsolved Art Theft. New York: HarperCollins. ISBN 978-0-06-145184-3.
  • Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (2018). Stolen. Carlisle, Massachusetts: Benna Books. ISBN 978-1-944038-52-6.
  • Goldfarb, Hilliard T. (1995). The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum: A Companion Guide and History. New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University. ISBN 0-300-06341-5.
  • McShane, Thomas; Matera, Dary (2006). Stolen Masterpiece Tracker. Fort Lee, New Jersey: Barricade Books. ISBN 1-56980-314-5.
  • Wittman, Robert K.; Shiffman, John (2010). Priceless: How I Went Undercover to Rescue the World's Stolen Treasures. New York: Broadway Books. ISBN 978-0-307-46148-3.

External linksEdit