Top 5 Art Heists Ever
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Mar 29, 2012

Top 5 Art Heists Ever

Throughout history there have been those that have been drawn to beautiful masterpieces of art. People around the world love art for a myriad of reasons be it beauty, value or meaning, yet there are a select few who are driven to stealing artwork for such motives. These select few range from professional thieves to opportunists and avid enthusiasts. So what are the most famous art thefts throughout history? Here are 5 of the most audacious art heists throughout history.

A Swedish Heist

Renoir - Young Parisian
A terrifying heist at the Swedish National Museum in Stockholm in December 2000 saw the theft of two masterpieces by French impressionist Renoir - Young Parisian and Conversation with the Gardner and another self-portrait by Dutch master Rembrandt, collectively valued at £20 million. Thieves reportedly held staff in the lobby with machine guns whilst two accomplices searched the museum for the pieces. The heist was so strategic that two car bombs across the city were donated to create a diversion. Only one piece – Renoir’s Conversation with the Gardner has been recovered.
Renoir’s Conversation with the Gardner

Edvard Munch’s world famous work of art The Scream was one of a series of paintings within his Frieze of Life works and was housed in the Norway Munch Museum in Oslo when it was stolen for a second time in 2004. It was thieved in a daylight raid during August along with Munch’s The Madonna. The piece has never been found. The first theft occurred ten years earlier in 1994 during the Winter Olympics in Lillehammer. Robbers stole one of four versions of the piece, leaving behind a cheeky note which read, ‘thanks for the poor security.’ The piece was found 7 months later.


Congregation-Leaving-the-Reformed-Church-in-Nuenen-VanGoghThe Vincent Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam, Netherlands was subject to a massive theft in 1991. 20 pieces of the Dutch master’s artwork was stolen worth approximately £7 million each. The most famous of the stolen pieces was the celebrated work Sunflowers. Luckily all of the pieces were discovered shortly after the heist in a nearby get-away vehicle. The museum was also robbed for a second time in December 2002 when thieves entered the building via a ladder to the first storey window. Pieces stolen were View of the Sea at Scheveningen and Congregation Leaving the Reformed Church in Nuenen, valued at £2 million. These pieces have never been recovered.

In what is still the biggest art theft in US history, two men blagged their way into the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, pretending to be policemen then tying up the security staff. The men pretty much cleared out the museum stealing pieces including three Rembrandts, a Vermeer, a Govaert Flinck and Manet painting. The masterpieces were reportedly brutally cut from their frames leaving jagged frayed edges and severely devaluing the works. Collectively the works were estimated between £125-£190 million. None of the stolen artworks have been recovered. See this video:

The fifth and perhaps most famous theft was of the Mona Lisa on 21st August 1911. This Da Vinci masterpiece, widely heralded as the most famous painting in the world was stolen by then employee Vincenzo Peruggia when he hid in a broom cupboard during the day and making off with the piece after hours. The piece was recovered 2 years later when Peruggia attempted to sell the painting to the Uffizi Gallery in Italy.

- This article was written by CultureLabel, e-retailer for affordable art.