The world’s most infamous art robberies

Whether for prestige, cash or collateral, thieves have often gone to great lengths to steal famous pieces of art.

Museums, galleries and collectors around the world have been targeted (some repeatedly) in what are usually well-planned, professional jobs.

Of course, it's not as if walking out of a gallery or museum with a six-foot Picasso is an easy feat. But as history shows, there are always daring individuals willing to take the chance. Here's our rundown of the world's most famous heists:

The Mona LisaParis, France (1911)

On August 21st 1911, Vincenzo Peruggia - an employee at the Louvre in Paris - came in to work and stole the world's best-known painting, the Mona Lisa. In what is regarded by many as the greatest art theft of the 20th century, he simply hid inside the museum overnight and walked out with the painting when it reopened.

Peruggia kept the Mona Lisa in his Paris flat for two years before taking it back to his native Italy, where he reportedly sought a reward for taking the Da Vinci masterpiece 'home'. Despite being arrested and thrown into jail, he was hailed as a patriot by many of his compatriots and served only a short prison sentence.

London, UK (1981)

In 1981, Jacob de Gheyn III, a Rembrandt portrait from 1632, was taken from the Dulwich Picture Gallery in London by four men in a taxi. This proved to be the first of four occasions on which the painting has been stolen. Miraculously, the 'Takeaway Rembrandt' - as the painting has become known - has simply turned up again each time.

Firstly the painting was returned to the gallery, and the next time it was found in the luggage rack at a German railway station. The third time Jacob de Gheyn III was stolen it turned up in a graveyard, and on the most recent occasion it was found in the basket of an abandoned bicycle.

Madonna della Stella by Fra AngelicoNew York, US (1988)

A total of 18 paintings, including two by Fra Angelico, were taken from New York art dealer Colnaghi's in 1988. Thieves broke in to the building through a skylight - a highly dangerous manoeuvre. They failed to select the most valuable paintings but still made off with works worth an estimated $6 million. Four of the pieces are yet to be recovered.

Mexico City, Mexico (1985)


Very often, art heists take years of planning, incredible skill and ingenuity, and also perfect timing. But not in the case of the 1985 theft from Mexico City's National Museum of Anthropology - which saw 140 priceless objects, including Aztec and Maya gold, stolen.

The alarms at the museum had not been working for several years prior to the incident. So when thieves targeted the treasure, they were able to simply remove the objects from their cases and carry them out of the museum.

Boston, US (1990)

Perhaps the most lucrative singe heist in history occurred at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston in 1990.

Hundreds of millions of dollars' worth of art, including paintings by Vermeer, Rembrandt and Manet, was stolen by two men dressed as police officers. Despite the promise of a $5 million reward for the safe return of the paintings, they are still missing.

The ScreamOslo, Norway (1994 & 2004)


Edvard Munch painted four different versions of his masterpiece 'The Scream', much to the delight of art lovers - but also to thieves who have multiple targets to aim at.

Two thefts have occurred in the last 20 years - a copy was taken from Oslo's National Art Museum in 1994, on the day the Winter Olympics began in Lillehammer. And in August 2004 the Munch museum's copy was taken alongside 'The Madonna', another of the Norwegian painter's works.

Rotterdam, the Netherlands (2012)

The Netherlands has seen a number of art thefts in recent years. In 1991, when 20 works were stolen from the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, the art was discovered 35 minutes later in an abandoned car.

Four men, including two museum guards, were convicted over the theft and sent to jail. But when thieves hit the Kunsthal Museumin Rotterdam in autumn 2012, they made off with seven classic works which remain unaccounted for. Paintings by Picasso, Matisse, Monet, Gauguin and Freud are among those missing.