World’s Most Wanted Stolen Art


As Cezanne’s ‘Boy in a Red Waistcoat’ turns up in Serbia, we wonder about the fate of other stolen works of art  

The Art Loss Register – the international index of stolen works – has 350,000 stolen artworks on file. But where are they? Traded on the black market and hanging in private homes? Or perhaps even destroyed?

Here is a list of some of the most wanted:

Johannes Vermeer: The Concert

Johannes Vermeer’s The Concert is, without a doubt, one of the most highly valued stolen work of art in the world. It was stolen in 1990 in the world famous Boston art heist in which 13 pieces of art were taken from the Isabelle Stewart Gardener Museum.

The two thieves, dressed as police officers, made off with a hoard of artworks worth over $500 million, including Rembrant’s ‘The Storm on the Sea of Galilee’, with the Vermeer work making up almost half of that total value. Its massive value is largely thanks to Vermeer’s sparse output, with only 30 works of his in existence.

Vincent Van Gogh: View of the Sea at Scheveningen

This iconic work was taken in 2002 from the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. It was stolen by two men mission impossible style, dropping through the ceiling. The ‘View of the Sea at Scheveningen’ was not the only Van Gogh work taken that night, with the ‘Congregation Leaving the Reformed Church in Nuenen’, also being pilfered. Together the two works are worth a staggering $30 million.

The following year, the thieves were caught; but the paintings as still missing.

Vincent Van Gogh: Poppy Flowers

‘Poppy Flowers’ by Vincent van Gogh is worth an estimated $55 million, despite its tiny size at one foot-by-one foot. It was stolen in 2010 from the Mahmoud Khalil Museum in Cairo. The painting was cut out of the frame so that it could be easily transported out of the museum.

Remarkably, this is the second time that the work has been stolen from Mahmoud Khalil Museum; it was stolen in 1978 but later recovered. Security problem?

Paul Cezanne: View of Auvers-sur-Oise

This work was stolen on the eve of the millennium. On 31 December 1999, a thief gained access to Oxford’s Ashmolean Museum, and stole Paul Cezanne’s ‘View of Auvers-sur-Oise’. The work was not signed by Cezanne who did not feel that it was finished. Nevertheless it is valued at nearly $5 million.

Cezanne is obviously a popular target for thieves. The newly recovered ‘Boy in a Red Waistcoat’ was taken in 2008 from a Swiss art gallery just before closing time.  Three armed robbers gained entrance and forced staff onto the floor at gunpoint while they gathered the intended loot.

At the time of the robbery the ‘Boy in a Red Waistcoat’ was worth $110, with the total hoard being worth an estimated $163 million. This made the heist the biggest in the history of Switzerland, and ranked among the most substantial of all time.

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