Stolen Masterpieces That Are Still MIA

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Stolen art makes for epic TV and film. From Thomas Crown to Neil Caffrey, art thieves on screen are always the perfect combination of classy and dangerous. The reality is that $5 billion in art goes missing each year around the world (Art News). The losses are devastating – not glamourous like Hollywood often leads us to believe. While some paintings, like the Mona Lisa, have only brief brushes with the black market and are recovered, many pieces aren’t so fortunate. We’ve compiled a list of several notorious stolen paintings. They’ve never been recovered, so keep your eyes peeled!

Poppy Flowers (Vase with Flowers), Vincent van Gogh (1886)

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Estimated at $50 million, this masterpiece was stolen from Cairo’s Mahmoud Khalil Museum in 2010. This is actually the second time this painting has been stolen from this museum. The first time was in 1977 and it was recovered 10 years later in Kuwait.

View of Auvers-sur-Oise, Cezanne (1875)

View of Auvers-sur-Oise by Cezanne

Stolen in 1999 during a fireworks show at Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, England, the thieves used a smoke bomb to distract the guards. View of Auvers-sur-Oise is considered an important work as it illustrates the development of Cezanne’s style, the painting is valued at $3 million.

Le pigeon aux petit pois, Pablo Picasso (1911)

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The Picasso was stolen, along with 5 other paintings, from The Museum of Modern Art in Paris in 2010. The thieves were later caught, without their plunder, and told police they had tossed the painting in the garbage out of fear of arrest. There are no words for this one.

Madeleine Leaning on Her Elbow with Flowers in Her Hair, Pierre Renoir (1918)

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The painting Renoir was actually stolen during an armed robbery of a Houston home in 2011. The painting, which is on the FBI’s Top 10 Art Crimes list, is suspected to have been smuggled out of the country.

View of the Sea at Scheveningen, Vincent van Gogh (1882)

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Art thieves love van Gogh just as much as you. In 2002 van Gogh’s View of the Sea at Scheveningen and Congregation Leaving the Reformed Church in Nuenen where stolen from the Vincent van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. The two thieves were eventually caught but the paintings were never recovered. There have been a total of 16 van Gogh thefts. 13 of the stolen pieces have been recovered but three, including these two masterpieces, are still MIA. (Art News).  

The Concert, Johannes Vermeer (1664)

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The 1990 robbery of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum is one of the most famous art crimes in history. Two men dressed as police stole 13 paintings with a total estimated value of $500 billion. The Concert by Vermeer is itself estimated to be worth over $200 million.

Why is it on our list if it happened in the 90s? Well, the FBI has been making headway in the case of the stolen artwork.  They have been investigating a notorious mobster with ties to the robbery since 2012. Robert Gentile, a now 79-year-old Connecticut resident, has been questioned three times about the robbery. The FBI believe he may know where the art is hidden or have access to it.  Maybe after 26 years the paintings will finally make it home!

Want to learn more about the secret lives of famous paintings? Come on a Museum Hack tour and we will share the untold stories & sneaky gossip that you would never hear from a museum employee.

written with 💖 by Carly Syms

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