October 26, 2012

Theft Anniversary: Two artifacts (Assyrian and Roman) stolen from the Montreal Museum of Fine Art last year

by Catherine Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor

Last year on October 26, someone stole two ancient sculptures from the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.  Three months later, the Montreal Gazette and AXA Art, the insurance company which insured the pieces, released a video on YouTube from the surveillance camera inside the museum showing a suspect wanted for questioning in the investigation.

AXA Art Insurance issued a press release dated February 13, 2012: "AXA Art Offering Substantial Reward for Safe Recovery of Rare Artifacts".  The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts issued no press release in 2011 or 2012 regarding the theft, a reward, or an ongoing investigation -- at least it's not listed on the museum's website.

The Sûreté du Québec's Art Alerte publicized the stolen works  and the poster in English and French offering the "Substantial Reward" also on February 14 (Alain Dumouchel responded in an email at that time that the Montreal police were in charge of the investigation).  The Art Alerte for Case File: 11-98 also included a picture of the suspect captured by the museum's surveillance cameras.

Reward Poster

The "Head of a guard" (fragment of a low relief) is estimated to as old as 5th century BCE from Persepolis (Persia), the capital of the Achaemenid dynasty (558-330 BC).

Assyrian low relief Sandstone, 21 x 20.5 x 3 cm
A marble head dating from the Roman
 Empire 20,2 x 13,3 x 8,5 cm
The second object, Head of a Man (Egypto-archaizing style) of yellow Numidian marble, is dated from the Roman Empire around 1st century A.D.

Neither of these objects was highlighted in the MMFA's museum guide.

In 1972, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts was the site of Canada's largest art theft when three thieves stole 18 paintings, including a painting attributed to Rembrandt.  The theft remains unsolved after an aborted ransom attempt and 17 of the paintings are still missing.


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