While the art industry celebrates the return of the stolen Cezanne masterpiece "Boy in a Red Waistcoat," recovered this week in Serbia, thousands of other famous stolen works of art continue to be traded on the black market or collect dust in storage.
According to the Art Loss Register, an international index of stolen works, there are 350,000 stolen works of art in the world. Once thieves realize they can't sell the paintings at auction or get paid a ransom fee without getting caught, many try to obtain cash or collaterall illegally, said Chris Marinello, general counsel for the Register.
"The next thing is the art goes underground to the black market and trades among criminals at about 5 to 10 percent of its true value. We've seen art being traded for drugs, weapons, involved in the international terrorism trade, traded for antiquities,'" Marinello said.
When criminals run out of options for making money off the art, they often put them in storage or hang them in private homes where they can stay for years without anyone realizing, Marinello said.
The world's most wanted stolen paintings are valued at more than $1 billion and can be seen here:
|"The Concert" by Johannes Vermeer|
Stolen as part of the most famous art heist in history, Johannes Vermeer's The Concert is thought to be the most highly valued stolen work of art in the world. In 1990, two thieves dressed as police officers stole 13 pieces of art from the Isabelle Stewart Gardener Museum in Boston.
The stolen art is valued at some $500 million, with the Vermeer ringing in at the most valuable, around $200 million. Its value is partly due to the artist's uniquely limited body of work, totalling some 30 paintings. None of the Gardner museum's missing works have surfaced since they were stolen.
|"Poppy Flowers" by Vincent van Gogh|
"Poppy Flowers," a small painting by Vincent van Gogh is worth a considerably large sum in the art world: $55 million. The one foot-by-one foot painting of a vase with poppy flowers, painted in 1882, was stolen from the Mahmoud Khalil Museum in Cairo, Egypt, in 2010.
The painting was cut from its frame by the thieves, who even stole the idea for the theft from previous robbers. "Poppy Flowers" was stolen from the same museum once before, in 1978, but found two years later in Kuwait.
|"The Storm on the Sea of Galilee" by Rembrandt|
Rembrant's masterpiece "The Storm on the Sea of Galilee" disappeared along with Vermeer's "The Concert" in the 1990 Boston heist of the Isabelle Stewart Gardner Museum.
Together, the paintings taken from the museum are valued at half a billion dollars, and constitute the most famous art crime in history. The stolen works include pieces by Vermeer, Rembrant, Flinck, and Manet.
|The Davidoff-Morini Stradivarius Violin|
The Davidoff-Morini Stradivarius violin is one of the most expensive instruments in the world, valued at $3.5 mllion. It was stolen in 1995 from the New York City apartment of 91-year-old Erica Morini, a former concert violinist, while she was hospitalized and dying.
Morini's father, a Viennese music teacher, gave the violin to her more than 80 years before. The violin was made in 1727 by Antonio Stradivari; Morini's family never told her about the theft, and she died shortly after. It has never been recovered.
|"View of the Sea at Scheveningen" by Vincent Van Gogh|
Van Gogh's famous painting of the stormy seas off the coast of the Netherlands, complete with residual sand grains stuck in the painting, was taken in 2002 from the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.
Two thieves climbed a ladder to the roof of the museum, dropped in, and stole two paintings, including the "View of the Sea" and the "Congregation Leaving the Reformed Church in Nuenen," which together are valued at $30 million. Two men were convicted of the robbery in 2003, but the paintings have never been recovered.
|"View of Auvers-sur-Oise" by Paul Cezanne|
While most of the world celebrated the new millenium on Dec. 31, 1999, one intrepid thief broke into the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, England, and stole Paul Cezanne's "View of Auvers-sur-Oise," valued at nearly $5 million.
The piece was never signed or dated by Cezanne, who never considered the piece finished.
|Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney Murals by Maxfield Parrish|
The founder of the Whitney Museum and prominent art world patron Gertrude Vanderbilt commissioned these murals, painted by Maxfield Parrish in 1912.
In July 2002,the paintings were stolen during a burglary of a West Hollywood, Calif., gallery, in which they were cut from their frames during the theft. The value of the two paintings is estimated at $4 million.