The story of the theft of the world's largest personal property
March 16, 1990, daytime night. Two security guards at the Isabella Stuart Gardner Museum in Boston, Massachusetts, allow two "police officers" to enter the museum. After a while, the two 'police officers' tied the hands and feet of the two guards and took out 13 works of art from the museum, then picked them up in their cars and lost them forever. The Gardner Museum, where the 13 works of art worth 500 million were housed, is actually a privately run museum. The two largest police officers in the history of the world were involved in the theft of private property.
Part of the Isabella Stuart Gardner Museum
Several intelligence agencies, including the FBI, have tried unsuccessfully to unravel the mystery of the theft. In these 26 years, not a single person has been arrested for theft, nor has a work of art been recovered. The case is still under investigation, and museum authorities have announced a 5 million reward for information leading to the recovery of the artefacts! The question of who was the two-member band of robbers in the guise of that 'police officer' is still unanswered.
Isabella Stuart Gardner (1840-1924) was an art collector. The Boston Museum is named after him. Among the stolen works was The Concert, one of only 34 paintings by Johan Vermeer, a famous Dutch golden age artist. The financial value of 'The Concert' alone is 200 million US dollars. The only sea painting by Rembrandt, another famous artist of the same period, The Storm on the Sea of Galilee, was also stolen. Also on the list of stolen assets were paintings by artists such as Edgar Degas, Edward Manet and Govart Flink.
Johan Vermeer's The Concert
March 16, 1990 was a Sunday. The previous day, 17th, was St. Patrick's Day, a day of religious mourning for Catholics as well as a feast. Early on the night of March 16, a red Dodge Daytona car pulled up on Thamel Palace Road, near the entrance to one side of the Isabella Stuart Gardner Museum. People are still returning home from a nearby St. Patrick's Day celebration. The two men in police uniforms waited in the car for about an hour until there was silence around.
Shortly before 1 a.m., Richard Abbath, a security guard at the museum, patrolled the entire museum once to the front desk below, to change places with another guard. Only these two are in charge of security in the whole museum at that time. At that moment, the door to the entrance to the Palace Road on the Abath Museum opened and closed very quickly. Many would think that this might be a helpful gesture to security guard Abbott's thieves for one of the most infamous thefts in history. But later on, Abath said, the security camera footage showed that he was always doing this. He did this by opening the door and closing it again to check if the lock was working properly. The FBI did not immediately return calls seeking comment. Abbott has done this before, probably as seen in the footage.
Sketch of two thieves according to the description given by the guards
Anyway, at 1:24 pm, two men rang the bell outside the museum door. Abbott wanted to know their identity from the inside. The two men replied that they were police officers, that they had heard of a problem in the area, and that they should be allowed to enter. What Abath knew was that there were no rules for an uninvited person to enter the museum after a certain period of time. But he did not know what to do if he was a police officer. From inside he could see the two men, wearing police uniforms, with police badges. At that moment, Rick Abath made a historic mistake, believing the two men. He pressed the stay button on the desk, opened the door and let them in. The two then proceeded to the inside, where Abbott was then inside the security desk.
At that moment, one of the two suddenly said that Abbott's face looked familiar to him. And then he said, an arrest warrant has been issued in the name of that man, the police will arrest him if he is found in any case. The policeman wanted to see Abath's ID card, and at that moment raised his hands and returned to the wall, instructing Abath to come out of the security desk.
Abath realized something was wrong, that the police were matching his appearance with that of another accused. Still, thinking that the matter would be explained later, Abbott came out to the wall with both hands raised, according to the police, to handle the trouble of that moment. That is his second historical mistake. Because inside the security desk was the alarm bell to deliver the news to the police station. As soon as he came out, he put his hands behind his back and put on the handcuffs. Abbott was able to catch the matter right after wearing the handcuffs. Because the rule of the police is to search the body of the surrendered person before handcuffing him to see if there are any weapons. These two did not do that. Abbott's eyes fell on him again, the mustache of one of the two was actually made of wax, it is not understood when you look at it in a hurry.
Until then, that is what has happened. Within minutes, another of Abath's associates, the guard L, was also handcuffed. That guard still did not understand. He saw two police officers and asked why they were being arrested. This time Gomer leaked the two men. They are not actually police officers. They are thieves. Came to steal from the museum. With that, they took the two guards to the lower basement of the museum. There they were handcuffed to an electric box. Duct tape is wrapped around the hands, feet and head of both of them, it is such a strong tape, it is almost impossible to get out of the situation with one's own efforts.
Police rescued Rick Abath in the morning
The aftermath happened quickly. The museum has a motion detector that records the footsteps of the robbers. Listening to them, one can understand what these two did after that. After tying the guards, the two of them went upstairs and first went to the ‘Dutch Room’ of the museum. One of them walked towards Rembrandt's self-portrait. A small alarm sounded, but it was smashed to pieces. They lowered the picture from the wall and tried to pull the wooden panel out of its heavy frame. But as the work was difficult, the two left the picture on the floor and proceeded towards the rest. Rembrandt’s ‘The Storm on the Sea of Galilee’ cut out the frame. In the same way, the film 'A Lady and Gentleman in Black' came out. They then took out Johan Vermeer's 'The Concert' and Govart Flink's 'Landscape Weed an Obelisk'. Then they picked up a pot from the Shang period in China.
Rembrandt's 'Self Portrait'
They then toured the museum with five paintings by Edgar Degas. On the wall is a sculpture of an eagle made of blue bronze from the head of a Napoleon flag pole. They have to come and go twice in total to carry the stolen artefacts to the car. All in all, they took 61 minutes to complete the work. Before leaving, the two thieves went to the guards again. He said to them, "We will contact you again in a year." But today, for almost 26 years, they have not communicated with anyone.
Rembrandt's The Storm on the Sea of Galilee
As I said at the beginning, the total financial value of these 13 stolen works of art is 500 million US dollars. Of these, Johan Vermeer's The Concert alone was valued at 200 million, one of the earliest collections for the museum. ‘The Concert’ is one of the most expensive stolen works of art in the world. The bronze sculpture of the eagle may have been considered gold by thieves. Museum authorities have announced a prize of Rs 1 lakh for this sculpture alone.
Sculpture of bronze eagle
According to the FBI, the stolen artefacts were taken away from the museum and were first sold in Philadelphia in the early 2000's. The FBI suspects the burglars were members of a large criminal gang based in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Washington and West Virginia in the 'Mid-Atlantic' region and in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts and New Hampshire. Somewhere in the 'New England' region.
This means that stolen and stolen artifacts may be scattered in any or all of these 13 states in the United States, and it is almost impossible to recover these invaluable artefacts by combing these places! The FBI suspects the two were involved in the theft in some way. One of them, Bobby Donati, was killed in the 1991 gang war. Another suspect, Connecticut gangster Robert Gentile, who was thought to have information on the whereabouts of the artwork, has denied any involvement in the theft.
Their frames have been left blank in the museum in memory of the stolen artefacts and in the belief that they may one day return. At the same time, the director of the museum, Annie Hall, has said that there is something to be done so that no matter where the thieves are, they should be carefully stored. He said the thieves should be stored in an environment with at least 50 per cent humidity with a temperature of 60 degrees Fahrenheit or 21.11 degrees Celsius. Care should be taken to keep them away from sunlight and acid free paper should be used to keep them. Annie Hall further said, the pictures can't be rolled up, they will break. Failure to comply with these rules will result in loss of image quality. In order to keep the color good, you have to give the color coating as required in the picture with a skilled craftsman.