Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum or Fenway Court is a museum in the Fenway-Kenmore neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts located within walking distance of the Museum of Fine Arts and near the Back Bay Fens. The museum has a collection of over 2,500 works of European, Asian and American art, including paintings, sculpture, tapestries, and decorative arts. It frequently hosts exhibits of historic and contemporary art.


Shortly after midnight on the morning of March 18, 1990, thieves disguised as police officers talked their way into the museum. They handcuffed the two on-duty security guards out of sight and then stole thirteen works of art valued at over $500 million, including The Concert, one of Johannes Vermeer's thirty-four known paintings, and three works by Rembrandt van Rijn, including his only seascape, The Storm on the Sea of Galilee, and a small self-portrait print. Also stolen were a series of drawings by Edgar Degas and additional works by Édouard Manet and Govaert Flinck, as well as two objects: a Chinese Ku, or beaker, and a finial from a Napoleonic flag. It is considered the biggest art theft—and property theft—in history; the crime remains unsolved. The museum still displays the paintings' empty frames in their original locations according to the strict provisions of Gardner's will, which instructed that the collection be maintained unchanged.

In September 2004 and February 2005, there were reports in Variety, the Boston Herald and The Boston Globe about a new theory emerging on the theft. In early February 2005 the FBI flew an American art dealer from New York to Paris to meet with the French National Police and pursue new leads that have, thus far, not resulted in any significant advance in the case.

In late 2005, as part of a concerted effort to enhance security, the museum hired a former Homeland Security official who helped to rebuild security at Logan Airport after the events of September 11, 2001. MAC Systems and General Electric also conducted a large-scale and comprehensive upgrade to the facility's access control system. More upgrades are in the works to ensure that the events of March 18, 1990 are never repeated.

The thefts are a subject of a 2005 documentary called Stolen, which in a slightly different version had earlier appeared on Court TV. In 2009, HarperCollins plans to release a book on the theft called The Gardner Heist, written by journalist Ulrich Boser. The book boasts of being able to reveal the identities of the thieves.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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