In American History X-cellentan episode of the animated sitcom The Simpsons (orig. airdate: Apr. 11, 2010), Mr. Burns throws an elaborate Fourth of July party for himself, forcing his employees to wait on him and perform a Broadway-style musical number without pay.

When Homer, Lenny and Carl become frustrated, they break into Mr. Burns’ wine cellar and become completely drunk. Mr. Burns discovers this and calls the police, but the police soon notice that his mansion contains stolen artwork including The Concert by Johannes Vermeer.

Mr. Burns is arrested and paraded through the streets of Springfield inside a bamboo cage, where he is jeered by the townspeople on his way to prison.

The Concert, Johannes Vermeer (1664)


The ghost of Isabella Stewart Gardner was glad someone went to prison.  On the night of March 18, 1990, a pair of thieves disguised as Boston police officers roamed the museum’s galleries, stealing thirteen works of art.

A Lady and Gentleman in Black, Rembrandt van Rijn (1633)

The stolen works include: Vermeer’s The Concert (1658–1660); Rembrandt’s Storm on the Sea of Galilee (1633), A Lady and Gentleman in Black (1633) a Self-Portrait (1634) as well as a Rembrandt etching on paper; Govaert Flinck’s Landscape with an Obelisk (1638); and a Chinese vase, or Ku, all taken from the Dutch Room on the second floor.

Also stolen from the second floor were five drawings by the Impressionist artist Edgar Degas and a finial from the top of a pole support for a Napoleonic silk flag, both from the Short Gallery. Edouard Manet’s Chez Tortoni(1878–1880) was taken from the Blue Room on the first floor.

Some media estimates have put the value of the stolen artworks at as much as $500 million, making the theft the largest single property theft in recorded history.

The Storm on the Sea of Galilee, Rembrandt van Rijn (1633)

The Gardner Museum continues to actively investigate any and all leads related to the theft. This ongoing investigation is conducted by the museum’s Director of Security in cooperation with the FBI and the US Attorney’s Office.

An offer of a reward from the Gardner Museum of up to $5 million for information leading to the recovery of the stolen artwork remains open. 

 A caption on Rembrandt’s Wiki page, “The Storm on the Sea of Galilee, 1633. The painting is still missing after robbery from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in 1990” is the reason I know about the “largest single property theft in recorded history”.

What’s alarming to me is that had I seen The Simpson‘s episode referenced above, I would not have known why Vermeer’s The Concert was in Mr. Burn’s basement.