Iraq National Museum, 2003
In March and April of 2003, thieves in Iraq looted multiple cultural sites, including the Iraq National Museum. They took thousands of artifacts, including the Sumerian Statue of Entemena, made of diorite stone and revered as the first known representation of a king with an estimated age of 4,400 years. The statue was discovered and returned in 2006, but between 7,000 and 10,000 objects remain missing.
Caravaggio’s ‘Nativity With San Lorenzo and San Francesco,’ 1969
In October 1969, thieves cut Caravaggio’s “Nativity” from its frame at the Oratory of San Lorenzo in Palermo, Italy. Many observers hypothesized that the Italian Mafia was involved, but that theory hasn’t turned up many breaks. The 1609 painting is valued at $20 million. A reproduction (which patrons say looks like a ghost) now hangs in its place as the search continues.
Davidoff Stradivarius, 1995
Crafted by master violin-maker Antonio Stradivari in 1727, this instrument belonged to 91-year-old Erika Morini. As Morini lay in a hospital bed, someone sneaked into her New York City apartment in October 1995 and made off with the prized instrument. Morini died weeks later, apparently unaware of the theft. Another Stradivarius was stolen from the Cambridge office of Roman Totenberg (father of NPR legal affairs correspondent Nina Totenberg) in 1980, though it was recovered in 2015. Morini’s $3.5 million instrument, named for a cellist who once owned it, remains at large.
Cézanne’s ‘Auvers-sur-Oise,’ 1999
At the dawn of a new millennium, fireworks distracted residents of Oxford, England, as an art thief entered Ashmolean Museum. Whoever it was, they tossed off a smoke bomb and swiped the post-impressionist landscape painting, created between 1879 and 1882. Valued at $4.8 million at the time of the crime, the painting is regarded by art historians as integral to illustrating Cézanne’s artistic progression.
Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney murals, 2002
In July 2002, thieves descended into a West Hollywood gallery via the ceiling and disabled the security system. Then they proceeded to cut a pair of enormous murals (part of a series of six) from their frames. Completed by Maxfield Parrish in 1918 for art patron and socialite Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, the missing works are valued at more than $4 million.