Illustrating the Largest Art Heist in History


When Boston Common magazine was putting a story together about the largest art heist in history and the biggest burglary in American memory, they asked 25-year-old Kali Ciesemier to help illustrate it. (Experts believe that the stolen paintings are worth as much as $500 million.) In case you don’t remember the Isabella Stewart Gardner museum heist, it happened on March 18, 1990 and the stolen artwork includes those by Vermeer, Rembrandt, Degas, and Manet.

Love how Ciesemier humorously illustrated this true story (minus the cookies). When asked why she chose to use only a few colors, she told us this. “The art director wanted a faux-retro look for the series and we both discussed Saul Bass-type images, which use a very limited color palette and geometric style. I’ve always enjoyed the look of limited color palettes and generally only use a few color families in each of my illustrations anyway, so it was an easy decision for me.”

Finally, what did she learn from the whole experience? “Oh boy, there’s a lot I learn with each successive illustration (like – ‘what’s the fastest dinner I can make while I’m on a tight deadline?’ and ‘Green sure is the trickiest color to use well!’),” she jokingly says.

“But a lesson I learned early on is to always approach each assignment I get with a sense of fun and enjoyment. An artist never draws well when they are uninterested in their work, so I always find something in each project to get excited about (which, honestly, isn’t too hard for me most times!). With this assignment, who WOULDN’T love a story about a mysterious and thrilling art theft that also happens to be a true unsolved case? The whole situation is so unbelievable, it sounds like a script out of a movie!”

Best part for us? The Mona Lisa on the milk carton, of course!

Above: “OH NO, EVERYONE! I went out to buy cookies and when I came back some of my priceless Vermeers, Rembrandts, Degas, and Manets were GONE!”


Some were even CUT out of their frames! With a big scary knife, I bet!


The police are stumped and I’ve TRIED to alert the public to this disappearing act…


…but the art could have already been passed off to a shady collector in the black market…


…OR maybe it’s just sitting forgotten or unsold–stashed under someone’s bed or in a dark and spooky warehouse!

I guess I’ll leave the empty frames up on the wall in memorium and hope that someday the art will be found again. Only my precious cookies can console me now.”

Kali Ciesemier’s website



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