Ten Daring Art Thefts of the 20th Century

Musee Marmottan 1985

Impression Sunrise http://totallyhistory.com/
Impression Sunrise http://totallyhistory.com/

On October 28th 1985 in broad daylight, 5 men in masked entered the Marmottan Museum in Paris armed with pistols. They threatened both guests and security inside the museum. As those inside the museum watched, the thieves took seven paintings off the walls and removed two more from a glass case. The men escaped with the paintings which were valued at anywhere from $12 to $20 million. The most important of the paintings stolen was Impression, Sunrise by Claude Monet which was the painting that coined the phrase “Impressionism” after one critic labeled the painting as impressionistic. Other painters would latch onto that word and the impressionist movement was born.

The other stolen paintings were Camille Monet and Cousin on the Beach at Trouville, Portrait of Jean Monet, Portrait of Poly, Fisherman of Belle-Isle and Field of Tulips in Holland by Monet. Young Woman at the Ball by Berthe Morisot, Bather Sitting on a Rock and Portrait of Monet by Pierre-Auguste Renoir and Portrait of Monet by Sei-ichi Naruse.

An art theft union of the French police tracked the paintings through several years of investigations. A tip off in 1997 in which the paintings were featured in a catalog sent to Japanese buyers was uncovered. The trail was followed but police worked slowly and carefully to ensure that the paintings would not be destroyed. In December of 1990 the paintings were found in Corsica. The most famous painting Impression, Sunrise only had minor damage from humidity. However, Field of Tulips in Holland was slashed and Young Girl at the Ball had two holes. The paintings were fully restored and back on display at the Marmottan within a few months. Seven people were arrested in the recovery of the paintings.