The Storm on the Sea of Galilee:
a theft of
Rembrandt van Rijn, 1633

Content and Context:

        Typical of Rembrandt (and Caravaggio), the painting makes heavy use of chiaroscuro to depict Jesus as he calms the great sea. Alongside Jesus are 13 others, representing the 12 disciples and Rembrandt as they strive to stay onboard amidst the chaos of the waves. Surrounding Jesus is an area of light that quickly dissipates as the scene draws down behind the sails. His only seascape, Rembrandt painted this after moving to Amsterdam, where he tried to make a name for himself as the premier historical artist.

Period of Art:

        This piece emphasizes the qualities of the Baroque period, as identified by the sheer sense of drama pervading the scene. Chiaroscuro appears throughout, and the characters are displayed in the heroic style typical of Baroque art.

The Theft:

        In 1990, two men dressed up as police men knocked on the door of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. Believing them legitimate, the museum guards allowed the men in, only to realize they were frauds as they found their hands bound, their faces duct taped and their bodies tied to posts in the museum basement. Not their first choice, the thieves went for a previous Rembrandt, only to find it too securely fastened to its heavy panel backing. They then proceeded to hijack "The Storm in the Sea of Galilee," picking up other random pieces including numerous paintings, an ancient Chinese pot, and a golden eagle that framed one of Napoleon's flags before exiting the museum.

The Recovery:

        24 years later, the paintings remain missing. Despite involvement by the FBI, the Scotland Yard, Japan, France, and a $5 million reward offered by the museum, none of the works have been discovered. A leading theory suggests the involvement of Whitey Bulger, a crime boss thought to have caused corruption within the section of the FBI involved in the case. However, upon accusations, Bulger fled and has not been caught since.

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