Top-five Art Heists

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Five paintings were stolen from the Musee d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris on Wednesday night in one of the biggest art heists in recent history. The astonishing haul is said to be worth up to €500m and includes a Picasso valued at €23m (£20m) and a painting by Henri Matisse which is estimated at €15m (£13m). 

Embarrassingly for the museum, the crime was not the complicated Oceans Eleven type affair but was actually committed by a single assailant breaking in through a window. Here’s our top five record-breaking art heists…

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The Mona Lisa: The painting was discovered missing from its home at the Louvre on August 21, 1911. Amazingly police were not informed of the theft until the next day after staff assumed that the painting had been taken to an in-house studio to be photographed. Vincent Perugia, a self-professed patriot, had stolen the piece believing it belonged in an Italian museum. Both Perugia and the painting remained unfound for two years until Perugia attempted to sell the famous portrait to art dealer Alfredi Geri. He was reported and arrested the moment Geri confirmed the authenticity of the piece.

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Sweden’s National Musuem Heist: In a scene straight out of an action movie three masked and armed thieves stormed the museum on December 22, 2000. They managed to get their hands on two paintings by Renoir and also a self-portrait by the Dutch artist Rembrandt. The three men made their escape in a waiting speedboat as simultaneously two cars exploded in other parts of the city, an elaborate diversion to send police in different directions. The gang later held the uninsured $30 million haul for ransom. Renoir’s ‘Conversation with the Gardner’ was eventually discovered during a drugs raid, the other two pieces have never been recovered.

The Scream: The iconic painting by Edvard Munch has been stolen from its place at Oslo’s Munch Museum twice. The first, in 1994 occurred during the Winter Olympics with thieves taunting police by leaving behind a note reading, ‘Thanks for the poor security.’ Police recovered the paintings in a sting several months later. The most recent attempt came in August 2004 in a daring daylight robbery that saw two men hold up staff and tourists at gunpoint before swiping the painting along with a second Munch work, 'The Madonna'. The paintings were rediscovered in 2006 and three men were convicted of the robbery.

The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum Robbery: One of the biggest art heists in US history saw two men disguised as police officers wearing rather comic fake black moustaches and bluffing their way into the museum on March 18, 1990. After tying up the security guards, the robbers managed to make off with 13 items including three Rembrandts, a Vermeer, a Govaert Flinck and Manet paintings, as well as a bronze Chinese beaker, five Degas sketches and a bronze eagle taken from the tip of a Napoleonic flag. Despite extensive investigations by both the FBI and the museum, the art works with an estimated worth of $200-$300 million, have never been discovered. The museum still displays the empty locations of all the pieces under guidelines in Gardner’s will that the museum’s collection remained unchanged.

The Duke of Wellington: Francisco Goya’s painting, 'Portrait f the Duke of Wellington' was stolen from the National Gallery in London in 1961 by a disabled British pensioner called Kempton Bunton. A retired bus driver, Bunton was enraged when the British Government shelled out £140, 000 of tax payers money on the painting. Bunton entered through a toilet window and casually strolled into the gallery taking the portrait and leaving the same way he came in. He demanded a £140,000 donation to charity to allow the poor to pay for TV licenses and an amnesty for himself. This was refused and he gave himself and the painting up four years later. Under a technicality he was only ever charged for theft of the paintings frame, which was never recovered. Jordan Waller