5 Monets, 2 Renoirs, guns and a headline-making 1985 heist in Paris

Five works by painter Claude Monet were taken from a Paris museum during a headline-making theft in the autumn of 1985.

Brazen theft of impressionist masterpieces led CBC's Sunday Report broadcast on Oct. 27, 1985

A multimillion-dollar art theft in 1985

37 years ago
Duration 1:23
The CBC's Heather Marshall provided an overview on a major art theft in Paris for Sunday Report viewers on Oct. 27, 1985.

The world-famous art works would be missing from the walls of the Musée Marmottan Monet for years.

They were snatched off those walls by quick-working thieves who targeted the Paris museum on Oct. 27, 1985.

"A gang of armed men there stole several impressionist masterpieces, worth about $20 million," Peter Mansbridge told viewers at the start of CBC's Sunday Report that night. 

According to news reports, five paintings by Claude Monet were taken — his Impression, Sunrise among them — along with two more by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, and paintings by Berthe Morisot and by the artist Naruse.

Right at the start of the day

Security was immediately increased at the Musée Marmottan Monet in Paris, following the theft of nine paintings on Oct. 27, 1985. (Sunday Report/CBC Archives)

Reporter Heather Marshall provided details on the headline-making heist, which occurred shortly after the museum opened and its security system had been disabled for the visiting hours portion of the day.

"A handful of early-morning browsers were overtaken by gunmen," Marshall reported. "A guard was held at gunpoint, while others were forced to the floor."

The thieves worked quickly, leaving witnesses with the impression they knew what they were looking for.

"The robbers broke a display case to reach a Renoir portrait of Monet, but the other paintings were unprotected, as was the museum itself," said Marshall.

How could they be unloaded?

The headline-making theft at the Musée Marmottan Monet occurred shortly after the museum opened on Oct. 27, 1985. (Sunday Report/CBC Archives)

Security was quickly increased, as police sought to investigate the crime.

But Marshall said a key question would be how the thieves would seek to unload the paintings.

"The priceless masterpieces will quickly be spotted in an art world anxious to know their whereabouts," she said.

In December 1990, the paintings would be recovered, with The Associated Press reporting that they had been located in Porto-Vecchio, Corsica.

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