Famous Art Heists and Where the Pieces Are Now

Thief stealing the piece of art from gallery of art.

Famous Art Heists and Where the Pieces Are Now

Where do the pieces go from famous art heists? As enticing as it is to simply just go to the museum and take in the sights, that isn’t enough for some people. Thieves see art as a valuable commodity, but when it comes down to it must be impossible to get to a fence. Find out about some of the most famous art heists of all time and where the pieces are today.

Van Gogh’s The Parsonage Garden at Nuenen in Spring

famous art heists
This striking painting was taken during the height of COVID-19.

COVID changed the world, and it was certainly home to one of the most famous art heists in recent memory. Sadly, Vincent Van Gogh’s The Parsonage Garden at Nuenen in Spring went missing from the Singer Laren Museum in March 2020.

The Aftermath

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Law enforcement still hasn’t located the missing painting.

Unfortunately, four years after the heist, Van Gogh’s painting still hasn’t been located. The heist itself was crude in its execution. Some thieves took advantage of a global pandemic to smash into the museum with a sledgehammer and blow through layers of security to take the painting.

Rembrandt’s Jacob de Gheyn III

famous art heists
This painting has been stolen multiple times, oddly enough.

As one of the old masters, Rembrandt’s paintings make for a popular target among art thieves. The 1966 theft of Jacob de Gheyn III was just one of a few pieces taking in one of the most famous art heists to come out of the United Kingdom.

Its Return

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Thankfully, you can still catch this painting in the museum.

This painting is a popular target for thefts. However, the 1966 theft had an interesting resolution. The thief attempted to sell the painting on the black market but was unsuccessful. Jacob de Gheyn III is available to see in London today.

Vanitas Still Life with Books, a Globe, a Skull, a Violin, and a Fan

This beautiful painting was among 18 pieces stolen in Canada.

This is one of the most famous art heists in recent memory. Jan Davidsz de Heem’s Vanitas Still Life with Books, a Globe, a Skull, a Violin, and a Fan ended up being just one of many paintings stolen in a daring heist.

Canada’s Most Daring Heist

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Law enforcement still haven’t found the missing artwork.

While the heist was committed in 1972, there are still no leads on the whereabouts of the paintings or jewelry stolen. In the 53 years since, there have been leads. One particularly valuable Rembrandt painting is thought lost to the ages.

Klimt’s Portrait of a Lady

Portrait of a Lady
You can certainly see why such a captivating painting would be the subject of a theft.

Portrait of a Lady by Gustav Klimt is an unusual piece of art. You can see where the Austrian artist stopped his work and painted over it. Despite its importance, the painting went missing in 1997 after a heist at the Galleria d’Arte Moderna in Italy.

An Unlikely Discovery

Old hand holding plastic bag in to trash
Can you imagine putting a priceless work of art in a garbage bag?

What makes this one of the most famous art heists is the rather unusual means by which the painting was recovered. After 22 years, the painting was discovered intact and in good condition. A gardener found it concealed with a garbage bag, under a panel in the building near his workspace.

The Sao Paolo Museum Heist

famous art heists

While many of the most famous art heists read like something out of a suspense film, some are rather banal in their execution. The 2007 Sao Paolo art heist had paintings by Pablo Picasso and other noteworthy artists as part of the haul.

A Lucky Break

Thief in museum. Surrealistic image with painting comes to be alive.
These art thieves didn’t enjoy their spoils for very long.

Thankfully, all paintings were safely recovered in the wake of the theft. An accomplice of the thieves alerted authorities to the whereabouts of the safehouse where everything was being held. As such, you can see all of the works easily in Sao Paolo today.

The Manchester Museum Heist

Aerial drone view of Manchester city in UK on a beautiful sunny day.
Interestingly, Manchester’s art heist is one of the most infamous of the 21st century so far.

2003 saw one of the most daring of the famous art heists covered in this list. The Whitworth Art Gallery in Manchester, England saw some rather bizarre circumstances. Paintings by the likes of Pablo Picasso, Paul Gauguin, and Vincent Van Gogh ended up stolen.

The Loovre

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Who puts paintings in a cardboard tube?

Thankfully, the entire saga lasted for mere days. In a humorous twist, the paintings ended up stuffed into a cardboard tube. Authorities found them inside a toilet less than 700 feet from the galley. The press cheekily nicknamed the rundown bathroom, “The Loovre”, in the wake of this discovery.

Caravaggio’s Nativity with St. Francis and St. Lawrence

This stunning painting is one of the finest pieces to come out of Italy.

1969 saw one of the most daring and famous art heists to rock across Italy. Caravaggio’s priceless Nativity with St. Francis and St. Lawrence ended up stolen. The news shocked the world, as the painting is regarded as one of the finest of Caravaggio’s works.

A Decades-Long Search

Laptop, radio and hands of security typing or writing an investigation project at a law enforcement office. Police, keyboard and person or officer working on internet crime and criminal email online
The hunt is still on for this missing painting.

Sadly, in the years since the heist, nothing has come of the painting. The painting was originally thought to be lost forever. This happened until 2017 when Italy’s anti-mafia task force reopened the case. There is still hope that the painting is intact somewhere.

Munch’s Scream

The Scream

The Winter Olympics in Oslo circa 1994 were a special occasion for many reasons. However, the event lives in infamy now thanks to one of the most famous art heists of the 20th century. Edvard Munch’s The Scream wasn’t among the attractions at the Winter Olympics, however.

A Chance Discovery

View over Oslo in Norway with the Oslo Fjord after sunset
The Scream was found just north of Oslo after a two-year search.

The search for The Scream lasted around two years or so. It did end up back in safe hands. Norwegian authorities happened upon a lucky lead that led them to a hotel just north of Oslo.

Monet’s Impression, Sunrise

famous art heists
This is certainly a breathtaking piece.

Claude Monet is credited with starting the Impressionist movement in art. 1985 saw one of the most daring and famous art heists to happen in recent memory. Impression, Sunrise was just one of many targets that day.

A Corsican Villa

Modern wooden eco house villa facade luxury big house. Timber cottage with with green lawn water sprinkler, paved footpath and blue sky background. Landscaping design, garden watering and maintenance
Interestingly, a humble villa ended up holding multiple Impressionist masterpieces.

It took five years, but French authorities were able to recover all the missing paintings. The heist itself was unusual due to taking place in broad daylight. Consequently, seven people were arrested in the aftermath after all the paintings were recovered in a villa located in Corsica.

The Mona Lisa

Yes, the most famous painting in the world has been stolen before.

Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa is arguably one of the most famous paintings in all of history. In 1911, believe it or not, the painting was stolen. Italian handyman Vincenzo Peruggia was the culprit, and you could say he experienced some difficulty moving the painting.

An Honest Art Dealer

People in the art gallery looking at paintings, abstract contemporary art concept
Thankfully, You can see the Mona Lisa at the Louvre today.

Peruggia tried for 28 months to unload the world’s most famous painting to an art dealer, fence, or whoever would take it. Finally, an art dealer at Uffizi Galleries agreed to take the painting and keep it safe. This would prove to be a ruse, with Peruggia arrested and serving seven months in jail in the wake.

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