I sometimes wonder why I still watch The Simpsons, a full decade after it stopped being any good at all, but a couple of times this season there’s been a pale, blurry shadow of a reminder of its former glory. Tonight’s episode we saw Monty Burns getting busted for having commissioned the infamous 1990 art thefts at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.
Vermeer’s The Concert features prominently, one of only 36 known Vermeers in the world, as does Rembrandt’s The Storm on the Sea of Galilee, the only known seascape Rembrandt ever made. They were stolen from the Gardner along with 11 other Renaissance and Impressions masterpieces, plus two rare artifacts. The total value of the stolen pieces was estimated at $500 million. If they were put on the market now, even that staggering figure would likely be rapidly eclipsed.
On the night of March 18, 1990, men dressed like police officers argued their way in the door, handcuffed the night security guards and made off with 3 Rembrandts (and a Flinck that had been attributed to Rembrandt), the Vermeer, five Degas gouaches, a Manet, a 3200-year-old Chinese bronze vessel and a Napoleonic eagle finial.
It’s the largest art theft in history. Despite the $5 million reward for information leading to the retrieval of the pieces in good condition, the case remains unsolved. UNTIL NOW THAT IS.
There’s no clip online yet, but you can catch whole episodes on the Fox website. Keep your eye open for the episode called “American History X-Cellent” to see Homer’s thoughts on Vermeer’s beautiful symmetry and his shameful treatment of Rembrandt.