Want an instant five million bucks? Just find some stolen art.

Have you ever imagined what you would do with five million dollars? I’d probably build this pool.









Or buy plane tickets to wherever this is.








But enough about me.

The good news for you is that you no longer need to invent something really cool or become a famous celebrity to get boundless cash.

All you need to do is

find this painting:

"The Storm on the Sea of Galilee," by Rembrandt (1663).
“The Storm on the Sea of Galilee,” by Rembrandt (1663).

Stolen in 1990 from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (yes, that Isabella Stewart Gardner), The Storm on the Sea of Galilee by Dutch Renaissance master Rembrandt van Rijn, his only known seascape, still has not been found. How has this happened? The largest art theft in US history, with 13 paintings in total taken from the Boston museum in the early hours of March 18, remains an open case, but after 24 years, it is possible that the paintings are gone for good.

Here’s what we know.

  1. March 18, 1990: Museum guards let men dressed as police officers into the museum. The thieves overpower the guards, handcuff them, and take them to the basement. The thieves then raided the museum for the next 81 minutes.
  2. Over the years, several people claim to have seen the painting, and the FBI follows several leads, but they all turn up cold.

Here’s what we don’t know. You’ll notice this is a longer list.

  1. What motivated the thieves. One immediately jumps to money, but peddling stolen art probably has one of the worst cost-benefit tradeoffs out there for criminals. Did they plan on ransoming the paintings? Did they just love them and want to have them for themselves? None of these seem likely.
  2. Why the thieves took these paintings in particular. There were several other paintings worth much more than these ones (even though the total loss is estimated to be $500 million).
  3. Who the thieves were. Over the years, the FBI has connected the case to, amongst other organizations, the Irish Republican Army and Whitey Bulger’s mob.
  4. If they were amateurs or professionals. The thieves certainly seemed to know what they were doing, but they also took the Degas sketches and passed over much more expensive paintings. Were they just panicked? Or did they not know what they were doing?
  5. If the painting even still exists. It’s possible, especially if the thieves were amateurs, that they felt they were in over their heads and just destroyed the art.

However, in May of this year, the FBI confirmed sightings of the painting by credible sources.

The case’s lead investigator Geoff Kelly also identified three people of interest in the case, though two are dead. It’s possible that the artwork is being held under a death grip of sorts, for trade only when a debt is paid off or a long-term trade is finally completed.

Though it’s unlikely that the case will be solved soon, you, with your watchful eye, should keep a lookout for the artwork! Who knows? It could be right under your nose. And if you turn it in, the US attorney has granted immunity from any potential charges. Can’t beat that, right?!

Sadly, the rate of recovery for stolen art is less than five percent. However, who knows? Both the Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci and The Scream by Edvard Munch have been stolen and then found. Perhaps they aren’t the only high-profile artworks that can be found.

Until then, though, the frames of all the stolen artworks from the Gardner Museum remain hung in their original locations, waiting for their occupants to come home.

An empty frame in the Gardner Museum.
An empty frame in the Gardner Museum.

Interested in learning more about missing art? The FBI’s National Stolen Art File is a national registry of art listed as missing or lost in the United States and the world.

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