Today in Canadian Art History: The Largest Art Theft in Canadian History Occurred at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts / Musée des beaux-arts de Montréal


Sept. 4, 1972 – The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts / Musée des beaux-arts de Montréal was the location of the “largest art theft in Canadian history” when armed thieves stole $2 million dollars worth (now worth approx. $11.2 million) in pieces including  jewellery, figurines and 18 paintings that included works by Delacroix,  Gainsborough  and a rare Rembrandt landscape, “Landscape with Cottages”.

Rembrandt's Landscape with Cottages - stolen 1972

Rembrandt’s “Landscape with Cottages”


Around 2 a.m. on Sept. 4, 1972, armed thieves use the skylight to enter the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. The three masked men bind and gag three museum guards and flee with jewellery, figurines and 18 paintings worth a total of $2 million…

“They were discriminating thieves and had a fairly good idea of what they were looking for,” says museum spokesman Bill Bantey.

Although it seems that the thieves were targeting more than what they actually got. “Some 20 more paintings were left behind after the thieves accidentally set off a door alarm while leaving the museum.”

To this date, the art has not been recovered.

For much more on the story, check out Unsolved ’72 Theft of Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.

After midnight on Monday, September 4, 1972, a man with picks on his boots — the same equipment used to scale telephone poles — climbed a tree onto the roof two-story 1912 Beaux-Arts building on Sherbrooke Street which held the collection of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. He found a long construction ladder and lowered it to two accomplices on the ground who joined him on the roof…

* Sources: CBC Archives, WikipediaUnsolved ’72 Theft of Montreal Museum of Fine Arts

* Museum image via: