Inside an Art Heist

A slide show with facts about the works stolen from the Gardner museum in 1990.

Rembrandt, <i>Self-Portrait,</i> ca. 1634. Etching, 1 3/4 x 2 in. A small etching nearly the size of a postage stamp, also referred to as <i>Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man</i>, it was completed in 1633 when the artist was 27 years of age. The small work was affixed to the side of a carved oak cabinet in the Dutch Room beneath Rembrandt’s painted <i>Self-Portrait of 1629</i>.
Manet, <i>Chez Tortoni,</i> 1878–1880. Oil on canvas, 26 x 34 cm. Inscribed at the foot on the left: Manet. This picture shows a jaunty gentleman in a top hat writing in a Parisian café. Gardner placed this small work on a table beneath the darker and far more somber portrait of Manet’s mother, shown as a widow in a black veil and a silk dress entirely in black. The painting is believed to have been painted in the café, Chez Tortoni, located in the Rue Laffitte, Paris, where Manet frequently lunched.
Govaert Flinck, <i>Landscape with an Obelisk, </i>1638. Oil on oak panel, 54.5 x 71 cm. Inscribed faintly at the foot on the right: R. 16.8 (until recently attributed to Rembrandt). Long attributed to Rembrandt, this work was recognized in the 1980s as the work of his pupil, Govaert Flinck. Of Rembrandt, Isabella Gardner wrote to her friend and advisor: “I really don’t adore Rembrandt. I only like him.” Gardner placed this work on a table alongside a window, opposite Vermeer’s <i>The Concert</i>.
Five Gouache drawings by Edgar Degas. Isabella Gardner’s collection contains several works by Degas—including five drawings that were stolen in 1990. Gardner placed these works on a wooden cabinet in the Short Gallery. Degas, <i>La Sortie de Pesage</i>. Pencil and watercolor on paper, 10 x 16 cm.
Degas, <i>Three Mounted Jockeys</i>. Black ink, white, flesh, and rose washes, probably oil pigments, applied with a brush on medium brown paper, 30.5 x 24 cm.
Degas, <i>Program for an artistic soirée,</i> 1884. Charcoal on white paper, 24.1 x 30.9 cm.
Degas, <i>Program for an artistic soirée,</i> 1884. A less-finished version of the previous work, charcoal on buff paper, 23.4 x 30 cm.
Degas, <i>Cortège aux Environs de Florence</i>. Pencil and wash on paper, 16 x 21 cm.
Finial in the form of an eagle. Gilt metal (bronze), French, 1813–1814, approximately 10 inches high. This originally sat on the top of the pole support of a silk Napoleonic flag in the Short Gallery. The flag was not taken by the thieves. The finial is made of bronze, but may have had the appearance of gold to the thieves.
Chinese bronze beaker or Ku Chinese, Shang Dynasty, 1200–1100 B.C. Height: 10 1/2in. Diameter: 6 1/8 in. Weight: 2 lb. 7oz. An ancient bronze beaker, this object sat on a table in the Dutch Room. This is the oldest artwork taken by the thieves and one of only two objects stolen.

In the early-morning hours of March 18, 1990, 13 paintings were stolen from Boston's Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. Above, see a slide show with information the museum has provided about the stolen works.

Read more about the Gardner theft and Stealing Rembrandts, a book about art theft by Anthony Amore, M.P.A. ’00, now the Gardner's head of security.

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