July 22, 2013

Kunsthal Rotterdam: Mother of Suspected Art Thief Denies Destroying Paintings to Judges in Budapest Court

The mother of a suspected art thief denied in court that she destroyed paintings stolen from the Kunsthal Rotterdam last October, according to Andrew Higgins reporting from Bucharest, Romania, in The New York Times on July 22 ("Romanian Denies Burning Art"):
Olga Dogaru, the Romanian woman who told investigators that she had incinerated seven works of art by Matisse, Picasso and other modern masters in an effort to protect her son, denied in court on Monday that she had burned the works. 
Standing alongside her son, Radu, 29, who has admitted stealing the paintings in October from the Kunsthal museum in Rotterdam, Mrs. Dogaru, 50, told a panel of three judges that her earlier account of destroyed the works in a stove at her house in the tiny village of Carcaliu was untrue. "I did not burn them," she said in a soft voice.
Here's a link to a description of the stolen paintings. Here's a link to last week's reports on the ongoing police investigation into the ashes found in Mrs. Dogaru's stove.

And here's a link to an "exclusive" article published in Reuters by Radu Marinas, "Romanian expert believes three artworks from Dutch heist destroyed":
"We gathered overwhelming evidence that three (of the seven) paintings were destroyed by fire," said Gheorghe Niculescu, head of the team from Romania's National Research Investigation Center in Physics and Chemistry, which has been examining ashes found in the police investigation. 
However, he could not say which of the seven paintings had been destroyed and did not explain how he was certain that the remains originated from works stolen from Rotterdam's Kunsthal museum last October, rather than other paintings.
Marinas reported:
Until Niculescu spoke to Reuters on Monday, none of the experts involved in examining the ashes had given a firm view on whether any of the paintings had been destroyed.
Niculescu said he was now sufficiently confident that three had been destroyed that his department, a unit of the culture ministry, would be submitting a detailed report to prosecutors this week.
He said nails used to fasten the canvases to their wooden frames, recovered from the ashes in Dogaru's house, had been a crucial piece of evidence. "Their shape, the way in which they were manually manufactured and the metals they were made of, lead us to our conclusions," he said.
"We used X-ray fluorescence, X-Ray diffraction techniques, electronic and optical microscopy. I also got the best opinion of the national arts museum expert and there's no doubt here."
"Also Prussian Blue, a paint pigment discovered around 1715 and used on a large scale by painters from around 1750 ... which we found in very small traces of canvas, supports the case," Niculescu told Reuters.


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