April 3, 2013

Wednesday, April 03, 2013 - ,, No comments

Florida Sheriff Reviving Search for Religious Paintings Stolen from Museum of the Cross in 1968

A Sarasota County sheriff's detective in Florida, Detective Kim McGrath, is reviving the search for 15 religious paintings by Saturday Evening Post illustrator Ben Stahl which were stolen from his Museum of the Cross on April 16, 1968.

Associated Press' Tamara Lush reported on the new search for the paintings stolen more than four de cades ago (Florida's Herald Tribune, "Stolen Religious Art an Enduring Mystery").
Commissioned to illustrate a Bible for the Catholic Press in the mid-1950s, Stahl painted the 14 Stations of the Cross. Later, he decided to paint larger versions, along with a 15th painting, "The Resurrection," because he wanted his work to end on a positive note. All 15 paintings were 6 feet by 9 feet, and painted in oil. In 1965, Stahl and his wife moved to Sarasota and decided to open a museum for the large-scale paintings. Called "The Museum of the Cross," it was one of the main tourist attractions in the area at the time.

One witness remembered seeing a white van near the museum that night, while Stahl recalled two visitors from South America who asked odd questions in the days prior to the theft. The trail eventually went cold, and Stahl and his family didn't think investigators were trying as hard as they could.
"It was devastating," said Regina Briskey, Ben Stahl's daughter, who was working at the museum at the time. "It was incomprehensible, because at that time in Sarasota, there was hardly any crime."
The artist's son, David Stahl, wrote on a website that he even contacted witnesses and possible informers around Florida, but claimed authorities didn't pay attention.
Keeping an old art theft case open:
McGath -- who is also investigating the cold case of a quadruple murder in 1959 in Sarasota and its possible link to the "In Cold Blood" killers in Kansas -- said she is poring over records. She wants to talk to anyone who might have information about the Stahl art heist. 
Interpol Washington is also involved. Spokeswoman Nicole Navas said this week that officials recently sent out a message to all 190 Interpol member countries in an attempt to renew interest in the case, which she said is one of 500 open art heist cases being investigated by the agency.