November 20, 2015

17 Artworks Stolen from Italian Museum

Shortly before its 8 pm closing time, on Thursday November 19, 2015 three darkly-dressed masked thieves entered the Verona Civic Museum of Castelvecchio near Verona in northern Italy.  Using a methodology reminiscent of that used during the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum heist, the culprits tied up and gagged a museum cashier and the sole private security guard on duty using adhesive tape shortly after the museum's employees had left for the evening.

One accomplice stayed with the cashier, holding her at gunpoint while the other two, one of whom was also armed, escorted the watchmen through the museum's exhibition rooms.  In total, the thieves made off with seventeen Italian and foreign artworks including rare pieces by Peter Paul Rubens, Bellini, Pisanello, Mategna, the Venetian artist Tintoretto and his son.  
“La Madonna della Quaglia” by Antonio Pisano also known as Pisanello
tempera su tavola, cm 54×32
Mayor Flavio Tosi has referred to the museum's robbery as a “theft to order” crime, a label that, absent further elaboration, has fallen out of favor among art crime investigators as it feeds the public's imagination and more often than not, results in over-generalised misperceptions about who commits art crime and for what underlying motive.

Conjuring up images of cat burglars that look and act like sexy Hollywood starlets, cinematic “theft to order” protagonists are typically technologically savvy art thieves who burgle museums by easily outsmarting complex alarm systems.  If the protagonist is female, she is usually sexily clad but the common denominator among all film art thieves is that they are usually never caught and go on to live happily ever after, having made bundles off the sale of the paintings.

The truth is, demystifying offender characteristics and the motives of art thieves from media hype is difficult.  There is no single set of common physical or mental characteristics or motives which would make profiling the art criminal easier.

In Thursday’s theft the Castelvecchio museum's alarm system was not even activated as the thieves timed their arrival to coincide with the museum’s closing hour, entering just before the nightly alarms were to to be turned on.  Timed to perfection, the culprits successfully made off with artwork Italian authorities are estimating as worth between 10 and 15 million euros. The city’s mayor also stated that authorities hadn’t ruled out the possibility that the paintings could have been stolen to fund “jihadisti”.

Some of the paintings, mostly those painted on wooden panels, were taken off the walls and carried away as is.  Others artworks were removed from their frames, with the canvases then being rolled-up for ease of carrying. Thirteen of the stolen paintings are considered to be masterpieces while the other four are reportedly of lessor value.

Authorities have described the stolen artworks as:

“Ritratto di Girolamo Pompei” by Giovanni Benini
olio su tela, cm 85×63, inv. 45793-1B4017 – Estimated Value: €5.000
“Ritratto di Giovane Monaco Benedettino” by Giovanni Francesco Caroto
olio su tela, cm 43×33, inv. 1407-1B0142 – Estimated Value: €200,000
“Ritratto di Giovane con Disegno Infantile” by Giovanni Francesco Caroto,
olio su tavola, cm 37×29, inv. 5519-1B0130 – Estimated Value: €2,000,000
“San Girolamo Penitente” by Jacopo Bellini
tempera su tavola, cm 95×65, inv. 876-1B0306 – Estimated Value: €2,000,000
“Paesaggio” by Hans de Jode
olio su tela, cm 70×99, inv. 6275-1B0685 – Estimated Value: €200.000
“Porto di mare” by Hans de Jode
olio su tela, cm 70×99, inv. 6273-1B0680– Estimated Value: €200.00
“Sacra Famiglia Con Una Santa” by Andrea Mantegna,
tempera su tela, cm 76×55,5 inv. 855-1B0087 – Estimated Value €4,000,000
“La Madonna della Quaglia” by Antonio Pisano also known as Pisanello,
tempera su tavola, cm 54×32, inv. 164-1B0090 – Estimated Value €4,000,000
“Dama delle licnidi” by Peter Paul Rubens
olio su tela, cm 76×60, inv. 1779-1B0166 – Estimated Value €1,500,000
“Ritratto di Marco Pasqualigo” by Domenico Tintoretto
olio su tela, cm 48×40, inv.6707-1B0158 – Estimated Value €500,000
“Ritratto di Ammiraglio Veneziano” by the school of Domenico Tintoretto
olio su tela, cm 110×89, inv. 1602-1B0710 – Estimated Value €100,000
“Banchetto di Baltassar” by Jacopo Tintoretto
 olio su tavola, cm 26,5×79, inv. 264-1B0229 – Estimated Value €100,000
“Giudizio di Salomone” by Jacopo Tintoretto,
olio su tavola, cm 26,5×79,5, inv. 266-1B0230 – Estimated Value €100,000
“Madonna Allattante” by Jacopo Tintoretto
olio su tela, cm 89×76, inv. 1285-1B1623– Estimated Value € 500,000
“Sansone” by Jacopo Tintoretto,
olio su tavola, cm 26,5×79, inv. 265-1B0228 – Estimated Value €100,000
“Trasporto dell’Arca dell’Alleanza” by Jacopo Tintoretto,
olio su tavola, cm 28×80, inv. 263-1B0227 – Estimated Value €100,000
“Ritratto Maschile” possibly by Jacopo Tintoretto
olio su tela, cm 54×44, inv. 44381-1B4013 – Estimated Value €150,000
4 other artworks by artists such as Hans de Jode and Giovanni Benini

In addition to the artwork stolen, the bandits also damaged a table by Giulio Licinio.

The culprits left the scene of the crime using the museum custodian's own car, likely switching vehicles at some distance from the museum.  Authorities are reviewing footage from the 48 museum CCTV cameras installed in and around the museum for possible clues as to their identities.

Photos of the 17 artworks taken are posted to this blog post.

Andrea Mantegna, Sacra Famiglia Con Una Santa
tempera su tela, cm 76×55,5
“Ritratto Maschile” possibly by Jacopo Tintoretto
olio su tela, cm 54×44 
“Ritratto di Marco Pasqualigo” by Domenico Tintoretto
olio su tela, cm 48×40
“Ritratto di Girolamo Pompei” by Giovanni Benini
olio su tela, cm 85×63
“Paesaggio” by Hans de Jode
olio su tela, cm 70×99
“Porto di mare” by Hans de Jode
olio su tela, cm 70×99
“Ritratto di Girolamo Pompei” by Giovanni Benini
olio su tela, cm 85×63
“Banchetto di Baltassar” by Jacopo Tintoretto
olio su tavola, cm 26,5×79
“Giudizio di Salomone” by Jacopo Tintoretto
olio su tavola, cm 26,5×79,5
“Trasporto dell’Arca dell’Alleanza” by Jacopo Tintoretto
olio su tavola, cm 28×80
“Sansone” by Jacopo Tintoretto
olio su tavola, cm 26,5×79
“Madonna Allattante” by Jacopo Tintoretto
olio su tela, cm 89×76
“Ritratto di Ammiraglio Veneziano” by the school of Domenico Tintoretto
olio su tela, cm 110×89
“Ritratto di Giovane con Disegno Infantile” by Giovanni Francesco Caroto
olio su tavola, cm 37×29
“Ritratto di Giovane Monaco Benedettino” by Giovanni Francesco Caroto
olio su tela, cm 43×33
“Dama delle Licnidi” by Peter Paul Rubens
olio su tela, cm 76×60

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