Art – comes in all forms but when we talk about masterpieces the first names that come to mind are Da Vinci, Van Gough, and Picasso etc. The artists put their mind and soul into their creations to gain recognition. However, some people just can’t see these wonderful displays as a national treasure – they want it in their personal collections. These collectors would go beyond morals and take the loot from museum, private residences and even places of worship!

Apart from all that, these crooks are so refined in their methods and cultured that nothing else sounds more appealing than the famous paintings, well maybe with an exception of drug dealing, money laundering but that’s hard-core. It is estimated that the worldwide trade in stolen and forged art is worth upwards of $6 billion annually. Here are the 10 most high profile art thefts by these crafty thieves.

1. The Last Judgment – 1473

Now this was a medieval case of art theft. A three panel altar piece by Flemish painter Hans Memling, The Last Judgment, is stolen by pirates en route from Flanders to Flourence, in what is known to be the first documented art theft. However, a pious pirate gave the painting to a church. Today it is in the National Museum in Gdansk.

2. Duchess of Devonshire – 1876

Con man Adam Worth, the man who inspired the villainous character of Moriarty in Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, known for his criminal mastermind for robbing several banks and forging documents steals an art treasure in 1876. The Georgiana Duchess of Devonshire is hoisted up to the window of a London gallery on the shoulders of his 213-centimetre assistant. The portrait by Gainsborough’s is valued at the then world-record price of 10,000 guineas ($1 million today), and was stolen by Worth to get the bail money for his brother’s release from prison, but the brother was released without bail. Selling the portrait for ransom, Worth was never caught and died a year later. The portrait was recovered and now hangs in her ancestral home.

3. Mona Lisa – 1911

One of the greatest art thefts that will always be remembered. Stolen from the Louvre in 1911, the greatest work of art by Leonardo Da Vinci the Mona Lisa costs over $100 million. When the portrait was stolen, a lot of people working in and out of the Louvre came under suspicion and one of the now famous people to be questioned was Spanish painter Pablo Picasso.

However, the thief turned out to be an employee, named Vincenzo Perugia, of the Louvre who stole the portrait at the behest of an art forger who wanted to make copies of the famous lady. The thief was caught trying to sell the Mona Lisa to Uffizi Gallery in Florence and was sent to prison.

4. Nativity – 1969

Caravaggio’s Nativity was stolen off from a church of San Lorenzo in Sicily on Oct 18, 1969, where the painting. The painting was cut out from its frame and was seen in the possession of a mafia kingpin, who stole the masterpiece for his mother, who grew too ill to go to church to see it. The painting which is now worth $20 million has since never been found.

5. The Gardner Museum Theft – 1990

The largest art theft in the history took place at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. Two thieves entered the museum wearing police uniforms, after taking down two guards and taking the security surveillance tapes. The thieves leave with 13 works by different artists. The 13 paintings had three paintings by Rembrandt including his only seascape Storm on the Sea of Galilee, The Concert by Vermeer, one by Manet, five paintings by Degas, and others valued at around $300 million.

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