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Tuesday 23 September 2014

Long history of masterpieces boldly taken from museums

Published 17/10/2012 | 05:00

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MIDNIGHT IN PARIS

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• In May 2010, in the small hours of the morning at Paris's Museum of Modern Art, a masked intruder took advantage of a broken alarm system, clipped a padlock, smashed a window and stole a Picasso, a Matisse and three other masterpieces worth €94m, leaving behind nothing except empty frames. Security guards "saw nothing". The case remains unsolved.

SWISS JOB

• In 2008, three men, wearing ski masks and dark clothing, entered the Buehrle museum. While one used a pistol to force staff to the floor, the others took four paintings by Cezanne, Degas, Van Gogh and Monet worth €125m. The Van Gogh and Monet were recovered in 2006.

BROAD DAYLIGHT

• In 2004, two Edvard Munch masterpieces, 'The Scream' and 'Madonna', were stolen from the Munch Museum in Oslo, Norway, by three armed men. The paintings, insured for €107m, were recovered with little damage two years later.

APPEARANCES ARE DECEPTIVE

• In 1990, two thieves dressed in police uniforms fooled staff at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston to pull off the biggest art theft in US history. Once inside, the thieves handcuffed the two security guards and took them into the basement, where they were tied up. The thieves made off with some €230m in art, including works by Dutch masters Vermeer, Rembrandt and French painter Manet. The paintings remain missing. Twenty-two years later, the Gardner robbery remains the largest single property theft of all time.

MONA LISA ISN'T SMILING

• This theft helped create the celebrity status that 'Mona Lisa' wields to this day. In 1911, Leonardo da Vinci's masterpiece was taken from Paris's Louvre museum. Pablo Picasso was among those detained and taken in for questioning by police. It took two years to discover the real thief. Art historians say that a Louvre employee stole it by entering the building during regular hours, hiding in a broom cupboard, and then walking out with it hidden under his coat when the Louvre closed for the day.

Irish Independent

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