A blog about art

Stolent art works that have never been found

Works such as the Mona Lisa, stolen in 1911, have been found, but others remain unaccounted for. Here, a summary of the most famous disappearances that shocked the art world.

From sculptures that weigh tons to centuries-old paintings or a gold toilet, (yes solid gold): these are the most impressive or important thefts in the history of art still unsolved. Today, we tell the story of each of their disappearances.

Nativity with Saint Francis and Saint Lawrence by Caravaggio, stolen in 1969

Preserved for more than 350 years in the oratory of San Lorenzo de Palermo, this nativity painted by the master of chiaroscuro a year before his death was cut out of its frame on the night of October 17-18, 1969. Despite the creation of a police squad specialized in the search for stolen works of art, the painting’s mark was lost in the early 1980s. To this day, the hypothesis of a robbery sponsored by the Sicilian mafia remains the most probable.

Vanitas with books, a globe, a skull, a violin and a fan by Jan Davidsz de Heem, stolen in 1972

In 1972, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts suffered one of the largest thefts of works of art with eighteen paintings and thirty-eight antique jewels. Estimated at the time at more than $ 2 million, the loot refers to particular paintings by Corot, Honoré Daumier, Delacroix, Jean-François Millet, Courbet, Rubens, Rembrandt, Gainsborough, Jan Davidsz de Heem … The thieves would have He took advantage of some works that kept part of the alarm system disconnected to enter the museum and neutralize the guards present. Later only one of Jan Brueghel the Elder’s paintings was found.

The Storm on the Sea of ​​Galilee by Rembrandt, stolen in 1990

This painting by the Dutch master was stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, along with twelve other works on March 18, 1990. Estimated at more than $ 500 million, it is the largest theft in American art history. That night, in the middle of the St. Patrick’s Day celebration, two robbers disguised as policemen persuaded the two guards to let them in before handcuffing them. They took three Rembrandts, Vermeer’s Concerto, Manet’s Chez Tortoni, five drawings by Degas, Landscape with an obelisk by Govert Flinck, a bronze-plated eagle that belonged to Napoleon, and a vase from the Shang dynasty.

View of Auvers-sur-Oise by Paul Cézanne, stolen in 1999

This Cézanne painting, valued at 4.8 million euros, was stolen on New Year’s Eve 1999 from the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. Acting on commission, the thieves entered the museum through the roof after breaking a window. The University of Oxford, which owns the painting, later revealed that the painting was uninsured.

The Road to Sèvres by Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, stolen in 1998

One Sunday, taking advantage of the crowd at the Louvre, he simply disappeared. The alert, given at the beginning of the afternoon by a guard who noticed her disappearance, led the museum to close all exits while searching among 10,000 people. Taking advantage of the absence of a reliable alarm system, the thief simply picked up the small image and took it away.

Henry Moore statue stolen in 2005

This robbery is one of the most spectacular in the art world. Not so much because of the value of the work, estimated at 3.4 million euros, but because of the audacity shown by the trio of thieves to steal this bronze sculpture from the gardens of the Henry Moore Foundation that measures 2 meters in height and weighs more of 2 tons. According to the surveillance cameras, it only took them ten minutes to commit the robbery, using two 4 × 4, a truck and … a crane. Later it was sold to a foundry.

The Woman with the Fan by Amedeo Modigliani, stolen in 2010

This painting, along with four other masterpieces by Picasso, Matisse, Braque and Léger, were stolen during the night of May 19-20, 2010 at the Musée d’Art Moderne in the Villa de Paris. A raid valued at almost 115 million euros. The thief nicknamed Spiderman, already convicted thirteen times for similar acts, entered through a window. He was arrested and charged in September 2011, but since then no one has recovered these masterpieces.

Solid gold toilet by Maurizio Cattelan, stolen in 2019

The first solo exhibition of the artist Maurizio Cattelan in England undoubtedly caused a sensation. It had just opened its doors to the public at Blenheim Palace, and a work was already missing: the United States, its famous 18-karat gold plating estimated at almost 1.13 million euros (installed right next to the room where Winston was born Churchill). Subversive work remains untraceable.

Spring Garden, the Springtime Nuenen Parish House by Vincent Van Gogh, robbed in 2020

The robbery occurred on March 30 at the Singer Laren Museum, near Amsterdam, closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. On loan from the Groningen Museum, the canvas was stolen in the middle of the night after thieves entered the front door. Estimated between 1 and 6 million euros, this is the third theft of a Van Gogh in the Netherlands since the 1990s after View of the sea in Scheveningen (1882) and Congregation leaving the Reformed church in Nuenen (1884-1885 ), both stolen in 2002 from the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. Whims of the calendar, the robbery happened 167 years after the birth of the Dutch master, on March 30, 1853.