Not only are old and prestigious artworks extremely expensive, they can also capture the imaginations and obsessions of those who view them. Regardless of the reason these paintings were stolen, there’s hundreds of thousands of dollars in rewards available for finding them – although many are presumed destroyed. These are some of the most valuable missing paintings out there somewhere in the world today.
Caravaggio’s Nativity with St. Francis and St. Lawrence
Painted in 1609 by the Baroque master Caravaggio, this awe-inspiring biblical scene was stolen from it’s resting place in an Italian church in 1969. Measuring some six square metres in area, the audacious theft caused an international storm at the time. Since blamed on the Sicilian Mafia, the painting has never been recovered. According to some sources, it may have been eaten by pigs while being stored on a farm awaiting transport to an unknown fine art collector’s personal gallery. That would have been an ignominious end for such a noble painting. However, the FBI believe it may survive to this day and value it as high as $20 million.
Johannes Vermeer’s The Concert and Rembrandt’s Storm on the Sea of Galilei
Both of these mid 1600s masterpieces were stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, USA, in 1990. Along with 13 other pieces of art, the thieves’ haul has been valued at nearly $500 million. Disguising themselves as police officers, the two thieves enacted an arrest on the two security guards present and spent over an hour selecting pieces to steal. Clearly the pair were art amateurs, as they passed over several of the museum’s most valuable pieces including works by well-known masters Titian, Botticelli and Raphael.
Nevertheless, it remains the highest value private property theft in documented history. Storm on the Sea of Galilei is the Dutch master Rembrandt’s only seascape painting. The Concert is one of only 34 verified paintings by Vermeer to exist in the whole world, as this reclusive artist went largely unrecognised for many years. The museum, in collaboration with FBI, offers a cool $10 million for information leading to their return – in good condition.
Picasso’s Pigeon with Peas
This 1911 cubist original from one of the 20th centuries most revered and globally known artists was stolen from the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville, in Paris, France. Uniquely among big art heists, this one valued at £100 million, the theft was the work of one solitary man – who didn’t inform anyone of his acts until several weeks later. Along with modern classics by French artists such as Matisse and George Braque, Pigeon with Peas was supposedly thrown into a common bin in a fit of panic by the art dealer who purchased the paintings, just a few days before his arrest.
However, police officially doubt this story to be true and the paintings stolen in the heist are still considered missing. Whoever finds them could be up for millions in rewards – which is certainly more than the £30,000 the thief received for his troubles.