FBI hopes low-tech video will spark answers to $500 million art heist mystery

Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum heist remains a tortured mystery for the art world

Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum heist remains a tortured mystery for the art world

A visitor to Boston's Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum , looks at the frame that held Rembrandt Van Rijn's painting "Lady and Gentleman in Black". The painting was one of 13 artworks stolen from the museum March 18, 1990.


It’s been 25 years since two thieves, dressed as Boston police officers made off with $500 million worth of art from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston.

The FBI this week released new video it says was captured by Museum security cameras 24 hours before the Gardner heist which the agency hopes might trigger some new leads in the very cold case.

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 In the video a car pulls up next to a rear entrance of the museum. The car matches the general description of a vehicle that was reported to have been parked outside the Museum moments prior to the theft on March 18, 1990. The video also shows an unidentified man exiting the automobile and then being allowed inside the Museum, against Museum policy, by a security guard. That event occurred at 12:49 p.m. on March 17, 1990, almost exactly 24 hours before the robbers entered the museum through the same door.

The FBI said that while the images of the vehicle and the unidentified man are low resolution, law enforcement officials hope that releasing the footage will assist with identifying the man or the vehicle in the video.

“Over many months we have engaged in an exhaustive re-examination of the original evidence in this case. Our aim has been to ensure that all avenues have been explored in the continuing quest to recover these artworks,” said United States Attorney Carmen Ortiz in a statement. “Today we are releasing video images from the night before the theft—images which have not previously been seen by the public—with the hope of identifying an unauthorized visitor to the museum. With the public’s help, we may be able to develop new information that could lead to the recovery of these invaluable works of art.”

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A brief description of the robbery from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the

District of Massachusetts: “In the early morning hours of March 18, 1990, two white males dressed in Boston Police uniforms gained entrance to the Gardner Museum by advising the security guard at the watch desk that they were responding to a report of a disturbance within the compound. Against Museum policy, the guard allowed the thieves into the facility. Upon entry the two thieves subdued the on-duty security personnel, handcuffed them, and secured both guards in separate remote areas of the Museum’s basement. The suspects did not brandish weapons, nor were any weapons seen during the heist. No panic button was activated and no Boston Police notification was made during the robbery. The video surveillance film from the evening of the robbery was seized by the thieves prior to departure. They did not take the video footage from the night before.”

Since 2013, a $5 million reward has been offered by the Museum for information that leads directly to the recovery of all of the stolen items in good condition.

Here’s a list of the stolen goods:

1) Vermeer’s "The Concert"

2) Rembrandt’s "A Lady and Gentleman in Black"

3) Rembrandt’s "The Storm on the Sea of Galilee"

4) Rembrandt’s "Self Portrait"

5) Govaert Flinck’s "Landscape with an Obelisk"

6) A Shang Dynasty Chinese Bronze Beaker from 1200-1100 BC

7) Degas' "La Sortie du Pelage"

8) Degas' "Cortege Aux Environs de Florence"

9) Degas' "Three Mounted Jockeys"

10) Degas' "Program for an Artistic Soiree" (charcoal on white paper)

11) Degas' "Program for an Artistic Soiree" (less finished charcoal on buff paper)

12) Manet’s "Chez Tortoni"

13) Napoleonic Eagle Finial

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