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The First Armed Art Heist in History Is Being Made Into a Movie

But Ocean’s 11, this isn’t

"The Brooding Woman," by Paul Gauguin, was one of the paintings stolen at gunpoint from the Worcester Art Museum in 1972. (Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons)
smithsonian.com

The 1990 theft of several priceless paintings from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum might be Boston’s best-known art heist, but almost 20 years before, the nearby Worcester Art Museum experienced its own dramatic robbery. The 1972 robbery of the Massachusetts art museum saw a group of thieves make off with four famous paintings in broad daylight. Now, Whydah Productions has purchased the movie rights to the best-selling book on the subject and is working to bring the botched scheme to the big screen.

“It was the first time that art was stolen at gunpoint in history,” Anthony Amore, who head of security at the Isabella Gardner Museum in Boston for over six years, wrote about the theft with journalist Tom Mashberg for the non-fiction book, Stealing Rembrandts, tells Sarah Cascone for artnet News.

The mastermind behind the theft was a career criminal named Florian “Al” Monday. After casing the Worcester Art Museum for weeks, Monday decided that security was lax enough that he and his accomplices could make off with priceless artworks without breaking much of a sweat. After hiring a couple of thieves to help him out, the masked men marched into the museum and made off with four paintings: Rembrandt’s St. Bartholomew, Pablo Picasso’s Mother and Child, and Paul Gauguin’s The Brooding Woman and Head of a Woman, Matt Juul reports for Boston Magazine.

While heist movies like Ocean’s 11 (2001) and The Thomas Crown Affair (1999) often cast these kinds of robberies in a clever, sexy light, don't expect this movie to be a light-hearted caper. During the robbery, the thieves shot and wounded a security guard as they left the museum for Monday’s hideout. Four weeks later, the group was caught.

As Amore put it during a talk reported by The Telegram at the Worcester Art Museum in 2012, "When the thieves began bragging in a barroom about committing the theft, it was all over."

About Danny Lewis

Danny Lewis is a multimedia journalist working in print, radio, and illustration. He focuses on stories with a health/science bent and has reported some of his favorite pieces from the prow of a canoe. Danny is based in Brooklyn, NY.

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