Isabella Stewart Gardner’s Dutch Room, where empty frames hang. Courtesy of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

In the early hours of March 18, 1990, two men dressed in police uniforms pushed the buzzer of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. Only 81 minutes later, the two thieves walked out of Gardner’s museum with $500 million worth of works of art, committing the single largest property theft in the world – and an ongoing captivating mystery three decades later.

Netflix’s new true-crime documentary, This Is a Robbery: The World’s Biggest Art Heist, promises to shine a new light on the infamous heist. While the audacious robbery has received extensive coverage over the decades – numerous books, podcasts, and a PBS documentary – directors Nick and Colin Barnicle promise new exciting clues and information to be revealed in the four-part series. 

After years of interviews with criminal investigators, museum workers, and Globe reporters, as well as sorting through three decades worth of leads and conspiracy theories, the documentary is set for release on April 7, 2021.

“We wanted to take the viewer through it as if it was happening at that moment,” Colin Barnicle told The Boston Globe. “They get all the ups and downs of getting really close to finding the art. You get really high, and then you just collapse because it’s like it goes through your fingers.”

But in the end, the Barnicle brothers say the series identify the people that went into the museum. In 2013, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) had announced that it had identified the two thieves but never released their names. The museum continues to actively investigate the robbery and there is still a $10 million reward for information leading to the recovery of the 13 stolen works of art. While no one has ever been arrested for the theft, both the Italian mafia and the Irish mob are suspected of being involved.

The best-known works of art were taken from the Dutch Room, according to the museum’s website. The thieves cut Rembrandt’s Christ in the Storm on the Sea of Galilee and A Lady and Gentleman in Black from their frames; removed Vermeer’s The Concert and Flinck’s Landscape with an Obelisk from their frames; took an ancient Chinese bronze Gu from a table; and also stole a small self-portrait etching by Rembrandt from the side of a chest.

Édouard Manet’s Chez Tortoni is one of the 13 works of art stolen during the infamous Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum heist. Courtesy of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

The thieves were then able to steal five Edgar Degas drawings and Édouard Manet’s Chez Tortoni before leaving the museum just before 3 a.m. Today, visitors of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum can see empty frames hanging on the walls as a placeholder for the missing works – almost as a symbol of hope awaiting their return.

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