Credit M. Scott Brauer for The New York Times
The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston has extended a $10 million reward for information leading to the return of 13 works valued at half a billion dollars that were pilfered in 1990.
The board of directors voted to extend the reward, which was to have reverted to $5 million at the end of 2017, in the hope of enticing tips that would help recover works by Rembrandt, Vermeer, Degas, Manet and others that were stolen in the world’s largest unsolved art heist.
That theft took place just after midnight on March 18, 1990, when a pair of thieves dressed as Boston police officers bamboozled museum guards to gain access to the building, then restrained them and left 81 minutes later with the artworks.
There have been multiple suspects over the years including members of the mafia and the Irish Republican Army. The Federal Bureau of Investigation said in 2013 that agents had figured out who the thieves were but did not give their names, adding that the two were no longer alive. The statute of limitations on the theft ran out in 1995 but the investigation remains active.
The woman for whom the museum is named, an art patron and philanthropist who died in 1924, stipulated in her will that the vast art collection in her home, modeled on a 15th-century Venetian palace, remain on permanent display exactly as she left it. Nowadays empty gilded frames that held some of the works that were taken in 1990 still hang on the walls.
While searching for leads, the museum’s director of security, Anthony Amore, has searched visitors’ ledgers, compiled a database of names, phone numbers and license plates and created a detailed timeline of events. He has said that he hopes that the lure of the reward might be strong enough to dislodge a crucial bit of evidence that could result in the empty frames being filled once again.