Art heists have fascinated people for decades, but none more so than the infamous theft at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. On March 18, 1990, two men disguised as police officers stole 13 pieces of art valued at over $500 million. Despite numerous leads and a $10 million reward, the case remains unsolved. Here are five intriguing facts you probably didn’t know about the biggest art heist in history.


 1. The Heist Happened on St. Patrick’s Day Weekend

The heist took place in the early hours of March 18, 1990, right after St. Patrick’s Day celebrations. Boston, known for its large Irish community, was bustling with festivities, which may have provided the perfect cover for the thieves. The timing meant fewer people were likely to notice suspicious activities around the museum.


 2. The Thieves Spent 81 Minutes Inside the Museum

Unlike many heists, where speed is crucial, the Gardner Museum thieves took their time. They spent a leisurely 81 minutes inside, moving through different galleries and selecting specific pieces. This lengthy duration suggests they were highly organized and familiar with the museum’s layout and security systems.


 3. Some Stolen Pieces Were Cut from Their Frames

In their haste to remove the art, the thieves cut several paintings from their frames. Among the works damaged were pieces by Rembrandt, Vermeer, and Degas. This rough handling not only devalued the art but also made restoration more difficult. The empty frames still hang in the museum today, a haunting reminder of the stolen masterpieces.


 4. A Chinese Vessel Was Also Taken

While the theft is primarily known for the stolen paintings, the thieves also took a 12th-century Chinese bronze gu. This ceremonial vessel, used in ancient rituals, was one of the smaller yet significant items stolen. Its inclusion in the heist adds a layer of mystery, as it was not as high-profile as the paintings, suggesting the thieves had eclectic tastes or specific instructions.


 5. A Bizarre Lead Involving a Deathbed Confession

In 2010, a reputed mobster named Robert Gentile made headlines with a supposed deathbed confession about the heist. Gentile, who survived his health scare, later denied any involvement. However, FBI searches of his property revealed hidden compartments and art catalogs, hinting at a possible connection. This lead, like many others, ultimately led to a dead end but added to the complex web of intrigue surrounding the case.



The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum heist remains one of the most captivating unsolved crimes in history. Despite the passage of time, the mystery endures, with occasional new leads and theories keeping the story alive. As the empty frames in the museum silently testify to the lost masterpieces, the world continues to hope for their eventual return.


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