The Art Of The Steal: Greatest Art Heists In History Plus Egypt's Hunt For A Van Gogh

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Mahmoud Khalil Museum in Egypt has added to their to-do list to fix 'faulty alarms.' This weekend, a Van Gogh painting, entitled "Poppy Flowers" was stolen from the museum. The reports since the theft have been shifty at best - one stating they'd recovered the painting from two men attempting to leave the country and another saying that the search presses on still. Learning about this suddenly nomadic painting inspired some reminiscing over the greatest art thefts in history. Checkout the slideshow below and leave your favorite in the comments. Great works of art should always be respected and put on display with the utmost care, but at (very rare) times it's hard to deny the innovative art of the steal.

Poppy Flowers

'Poppy Flowers' by Vincent Van Gogh. Stolen from Mahmud Khalil Modern Art Museum in Cairo, Egypt on August 21, 2010. According to ArtDaily, faulty alarms in the museum have been initially blamed.
Status: Still missing.

Mona Lisa, Leonardo da Vinci

'Mona Lisa' by Leonardo da Vinci. Stolen from the Louvre Museum on August 20, 1911 by Vincenzo Perugia.
Status: Discovered months after Perugia's robbery (he held that the painting should be returned to its rightful home in Italy), it was returned to the Louvre Museum in January 1914 where it still rests.

Rembrandt Landscape, Delacroix

A landscape by Rembrandt, a Delacroix painting, a work by Gainsborough, jewels, figurines, and other works estimated to be worth $2 million were stolen from the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts on September 4, 1972. Reports at the time stated that the three masked and armed men knew what they were taking and went immediately for the good stuff.
Status: As yet undiscovered.

Edvard Munch

Edvard Munch is one of the most oft stolen from painters of all time. In 1994 and 2004, thieves poached his famed 'The Scream' from National Gallery in Oslo, Norway and the Munch Museum, respectively. In 2005, three Munch paintings were stolen from a Norwegian hotel, but were swiftly recovered.
Status: All have been recovered... for now.

Portrait of the Duke of Wellington, Francisco Goya

'Portrait of the Duke of Wellington' by Francisco Goya was stolen from the National Gallery in London in 1961 by Kempton Bunton - a retired bus driver. The painting had recently been sold to an American businessman for $390,000, so when Bunton stole the work he asked for the same amount in ransom, claiming he intended to purchase TV licenses for the poor.
Status: Returned by Bunton himself in 1965.

The Gardner

The Gardner art heist is one of the most famous thefts of all time. In 1990, three men dressed as Boston police officers broke into the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, handcuffed the guards, and took off with 13 pieces of work valued at approximately $500 million that include three Rembrandts, five pieces by Degas, a Vermeer, and a Manet.
Mrs. Gardner stated in her will that the museum (which permanently houses her private collection) should not be significantly altered and as a result, thirteen spaces on her walls remain empty until the pieces return.
Status: An as yet unsolved mystery.


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