The Gardner Heist and Stolen Art

Rembrandt, Self-Portrait, ca. 1634, one of the works stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston on March 18, 1990. (Image:; click for full size.)

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The biggest museum art theft in history happened twenty years ago next month — half a billion dollars worth of art stolen in the middle of the night from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston by thieves dressed as police officers.

Guards handcuffed and bound with duct tape. Paintings — of Rembrandt, Degas, Vermeer — grabbed from frames and whisked into the night.

They’ve never been recovered.

Global art theft is big business. So where are these paintings? The museum is still on the trail. We’ll ask what they know.

This hour, On Point: we’re chasing down the biggest art heist in history.


Anne Hawley, director of Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum since 1989.

Anthony Amore, director of security for the Gardner Museum. He joined the Gardner in 2005 and is responsible for recovering the 13 works of art stolen from the museum two decades ago. Before joining the Gardner he worked at the Department of Homeland Security’s Transportation Security Administration and the Federal Aviation Administration’s Security Division.

Robert Wittman, former senior investigator and founder of the FBI’s National Art Crime Team. He spent 20 years with the FBI, and recovered $225 million worth of stolen art and cultural property. He now runs the art recovery and protection firm, Robert Wittman Inc. His forthcoming book is “Priceless: How I Went Undercover to Rescue the World’s Stolen Treasures.”

See a photo gallery of the artworks stolen from the Gardner Museum in 1990.

The Art Loss Register allows you to check a global registry of lost or stolen art.

Host Tom Ashbrook and On Point producers toured the Gardner on Tuesday with security director Anthony Amore.

Anthony Amore, the director of security for the Gardner Museum, gives On Point host Tom Ashbrook a tour of the basement where guards were handcuffed by thieves on March 18, 1990. (Photo: WBUR)

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