Showing posts with label Goya. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Goya. Show all posts

June 9, 2014

Art Crime with Judge Arthur Tompkins on New Zealand's National Radio: The 1961 Theft of Francisco de Goya's portrait of the Duke of Wellington

Francisco de Goya, The Duke of Wellington, 1812-1814
oil on mahogany, 64.3 x 52.4 cm
Judge Arthur Tompkins, who teaches "Art in War" for ARCA's certificate program, appears monthly with Kim Hill on New Zealand's National public radio. This month, he discusses the 1961 theft from the National Gallery of London of Francisco de Goya's Duke of Ellington. Previous shows covered the Four Horses of San Marcos and the Ghent Altarpiece.

Judge Tompkins talks about the myth of the theft, the suspected "real" thief, and the legislation that followed.

Here's a link to the painting at the National Gallery of London where you can find it on display in Room 39.

And here's a direct link to the broadcast.

April 13, 2013

Francisco Goya's 1978 "Witches in Air" is subject of auction house theft in Danny Boyle's fictional film "Trance"

Francisco Goya's Witches in Air, 1798
Museo del Prado, Madrid, Spain
by Catherine Schofield Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor

In Danny Boyle's fictional movie, Trance, Francisco Goya's $25 million painting is stolen during an auction in a choreographed heist. One of the thieves, Simon (James McAvoy), works at the auction house. Simon betrays his accomplices before a bump on his head precedes a case of amnesia. Rosario Dawson is the hypnotherapist and Vincent Cassel (who played an art thief in Oceans 13) is the criminal boss applying the pressure on the bewildered lad with the big blue eyes and Scottish brogue to recall where he hid the stolen painting.

In reality, Goya's Witches in Air is owned by the Museo del Prado in Madrid, Spain. The 1798 oil painting is not on display:

Three bare-chested characters wearing dunce caps hold a fourth, nude character in the air while another lies on the floor, covering his ears, A sixth figure flees, his head covered with a white cloth. With his hand, he makes the gesture intended to protect him from the evil eye. At the right of the scene, a donkey stands out against the neutral background.
This was one of six canvases Goya sold to the Duke and Duchess of Osuna in 1798, as decoration for their country house in La Alameda. They are linked to the etchings from his Caprichos series, in which he presented scenes of witches and witchcraft similar to this one.
This painting was acquired by the Prado Museum in 1999 with funds from the Villaescusa legacy.
The film also includes references to Rembrandt's "Sea of Galilee" stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in 1990 (the whereabouts of Dutch master's only seascape is publicly unknown) and an imagined room of "lost paintings" including Caravaggio's Nativity (stolen from a church in Palermo in 1969 and rumored to have been eaten by pigs).

Saturday, April 13, 2013 - ,,, No comments

A True Goya Painting Theft: History of Stolen Painting from the Toledo Museum of Art in 2006

Here's an example of a true theft of a painting by Francisco Goya on November 7, 2006, which occurred when the artwork was being moved from one museum to another.

David Johnston for The New York Times reported on November 17 ("Goya Theft is Attributed to Inside Knowledge"):

Federal investigators have concluded that thieves armed with detailed shipping information were behind the removal of a Goya painting from a truck en route to the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum from Ohio last week, law enforcement officials said Friday. 
The 1778 painting, “Children With a Cart,” was packed inside several nested crates aboard a locked unmarked truck used by a professional art transporter. The crated painting was removed from an outer shipping container in the truck while it was parked at a Howard Johnson Inn near Bartonsville, Pa. 
The two drivers checked into the hotel around 11 p.m. on Nov. 7, according to the motel manager, Faizal Bhimani. He said the white midsize truck was left in an unlighted parking lot adjacent to the hotel, out of sight of the hotel’s rooms and the main office. 
When the drivers returned to the truck at about 6:30 a.m. on Nov. 8, the locks had been broken and the painting, insured for $1 million, was gone, law enforcement officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Here's a link to the press release from the Toledo Museum of Art in Ohio offering a $50,000 reward for the return of the Goya painting.

 Here's the link to the FBI's press release on November 20, 2006 upon recovery of Goya's "Children with Cart" within three weeks of the theft.

Here's a link to the NPR story of the FBI Art Crime Team which reports that the Goya painting stolen from the Toledo museum was recovered within 10 days.

Here's a link to an article in The Wall Street Journal online in 2011 with a motivation for the theft:

Robert K. Wittman, former head of the FBI's Art Crime team and now a security consultant in Philadelphia, notes that history's most infamous art thefts, including the 1990 Isabella Steward Gardner Museum heist in Boston, targeted works hanging on walls, not in transit. But he adds that art on the move is at its most vulnerable. 
Mr. Wittman helped recover a 1778 Goya masterpiece stolen off a truck in Pennsylvania in 2006 en route from the Toledo Museum of Art in Ohio to the Guggenheim in New York. In that case, its two drivers made the dumb decision to check into a motel for a nap. They returned to find their parked truck busted open and the unmarked Goya crate gone. The thief didn't know what he had, and said he wanted to get rid of it. He didn't destroy the painting because "it kind of grew on me." He had a lawyer contact authorities saying he had found it in his basement—there was a $50,000 reward—but wound up pleading guilty and being sentenced to five years in prison.
Goya's 1778 "Children with Cart" is still on display at the Toledo Museum of Art.


October 3, 2011

The Journal of Art Crime, Spring 2011: "Freeze of BBC License Fee Continues Dream of Art Thief Who Stole Goya's 'Portrait of the Duke of Wellington' from the National Gallery in 1961

In an editorial essay for the Spring 2011 issue of The Journal of Art Crime, editor-in-chief Noah Charney writes about the 50th anniversary of "the only successful theft from London's National Gallery", when a "brazen thief" stole Goya's 'Portrait of the Duke of Wellington' on August 21, 1961.

Since Kempton Bunton, who had been fined twice for refusing to pay the license required to watch television in the UK, claimed that he had always intended to return the painting, he was taking an advantage of an 'odd loophole' in British law. To read further about this case, you may subscribe to The Journal of Art Crime through the ARCA website or purchase the issue through Amazon.com.

September 28, 2011

The Journal of Art Crime, Spring 2011: Noah Charney's Q&A with Alan Hirsch

Williams College's Professor Alan Hirsch spoke with Noah Charney for a Q&A column for the Spring 2011 issue of The Journal of Art Crime.

Hirsch is author of For the People: What the Constitution Really Says About Your Rights (Free Press, 1998) and Talking Heads: Political Talk Shows and Their Star Pundits (St. Martin's, 1991). His most recent book is The Beauty of Short Hops: How Chance and Circumstance Confound the Moneyball Approach to Baseball (McFarland, 2011).
Why, you might ask, [Charney writes] is he being interviewed for a column about art historical mysteries and art crime? Because he is the world's foremost expert in the 1961 theft of Goya's "Portrait of the Duke of Wellington," stolen from the National Gallery in London -- he's currently writing a book on it.
Hirsch addresses the issues of art history, law, and true crime as involved in the Goya Theft. You may read this interview in the Spring 2011 issue of The Journal of Art Crime by subscribing through ARCA's website or purchasing individual issues through Amazon.com.

August 12, 2011

ARCA Trustees Noah Charney and Anthony Amore Featured on BBC Radio 4's Front Row Program with John Wilson: Mona Lisa, Turner, Goya, Rembrandt

You can listen to John Wilson of BBC Radio 4's program, Front Row, discuss art thefts of Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa and works by Goya, Turner, and Rembrandt here on BBC's website. ARCA Trustees Noah Charney and Anthony Amore, security director of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, are featured on the show. You may read more about this program and the books by the featured speakers on at Noah Charney's column, The Secret History of Art.

August 9, 2011

Noah Charney Will Discuss the Goya "Duke of Wellington" Theft on BBC Radio's "Front Row" on Thursday, August 11

Noah Charney (Photo by Catherine Sezgin)
By Catherine Schofield Sezgin,
ARCA Blog Editor-in-Chief

This Thursday Noah Charney, founder and President of the Association for Research into Crimes against Art, will discuss the theft of Francisco de Goya's "The Duke of Wellington" from London's National Gallery, just 50 years to the day after the theft of Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa from the Louvre on August 21, 1911.

"It should be a good show," Noah Charney told the ARCA blog, "because they also have Sandy Nairne on from the National Portrait Gallery (who has a new book out on the Tate Turner thefts)."

Mr. Nairne has published "Art Theft and the Case of the Stolen Turners" (Reaktion Books 2011) about his involvement in the search and recovery of two Joseph Mallord William Turner oil paintings stolen from the Tate Gallery’s collection while they were at an exhibition in Frankfurt, Germany, on July 28, 1994.  

Noah Charney, author of the fictional "The Art Thief" and the nonfiction book, "Stealing the Mystic Lamb," has also released an ARCA podcast on the 1961 theft of Goya's "Duke of Wellington." You may find it on iTunes.

November 9, 2010

Freeze of BBC License Fee Continues Dream of Art Thief Who Stole Goya’s “Portrait of the Duke of Wellington” from the National Gallery in 1961


The only successful theft from London’s National Gallery took place on 21 August 1961, when a brazen thief stole Goya’s Portrait of the Duke of Wellington. Forty-nine years later, on 19 October of this year, the thief’s ransom demands were protected well into the future.

One of the most bizarre incidents in the history of art theft, the Goya heist baffled police. Someone had snuck into the National Gallery through an unlocked bathroom window, had evaded security guards, and made off with a painting which had just been saved from sale to an American tycoon by the British government. The sale of the Spanish painting, property of the Duke of Leeds, had been frozen in order for the British nation to match the sale price, thereby keeping the painting in England. £140,000 had been hastily raised (the equivalent of around £2 million today), and the 1812 portrait of the English war hero was saved. It went on display at the National Gallery in London on 3 August—less than three weeks later, it was gone.

The Press had a field day, and the theft infected the popular imagination. In the background of the first James Bond film, Dr No, which was filmed soon after the crime, one can see a copy of the missing Goya portrait decorating Dr No’s villainous hideout.

Then the London police received the first of many bizarre ransom notes. They promised the safe return of the painting in exchange for discounted television licenses for old age pensioners.

Surely this was a joke? But the ransomer was able to identify marks visible only on the back of the painting, proving that it was in his possession. The ransomer, whose notes were theatrical and flamboyantly written, thought it outrageous that the British government would spend such a sum on a painting when retired British citizens had to pay to watch television. The Goya would be returned, wrote the ransomer, if a charitable fund of equivalent value, £140,000, were established to pay for television licenses for old age pensioners. There seemed to be no personal motivation for the theft, only outrage at the government’s TV license scheme.

But the police would not negotiate. A second ransom letter arrived, which read:
Goya Com 3. The Duke is safe. His temperature cared for – his future uncertain. The painting is neither to be cloakroomed or kiosked, as such would defeat our purpose and leave us to ever open arrest. We want pardon or the right to leave the country – banishment? We ask that some nonconformist type of person with the fearless fortitude of a Montgomery start the fund for £140,000. No law can touch him. Propriety may frown – but God must smile.
Still the police would not respond. A third ransom letter turned cheeky:
Terms are same. . . . An amnesty in my case would not be out of order. The Yard are looking for a needle in a haystack, but they haven’t a clue where the haystack is. . . I am offering three-pennyworth of old Spanish firewood in exchange for 140,000 of human happiness. A real bargain compared to a near million for a scruffy piece of Italian cardboard.
But while the police would not budge, they were no closer to identifying the thief. In 1965, however, a note arrived at the offices of the Daily Mirror newspaper with a luggage check ticket for the Birmingham rail station. The ticket yielded a surprising package at the Birmingham—the stolen Goya. It had been deposited by someone identifying himself as a “Mister Bloxham,” likely a reference to Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest, in which an infant is found in a handbag at a rail station luggage check. The painting had been recovered, handed over as a sign of good will by the thief, who realized that his demands, which he felt were entirely reasonable and noble, would not be met. But who was the thief?

On 19 July 1965 a portly, 61-year old retired cab driver who bore a striking resemblance to Alfred Hitchcock walked into a police station to turn himself in. Kempton Bunton, a cuddly 252 pound grandfather, did not match the expectations of an ingenious, if eccentric, art thief. He had, perhaps unsurprisingly, been fined twice for refusing to pay his own TV license. The theft seemed to have been motivated solely by charity, although there are those who believe that he took the fall for someone else.

Bunton was not worried about being tried, he told the police, because he knew of an odd loophole in British law. In court, he was found not guilty of having stolen the painting, because the judge noted an antiquated clause which stated that if the jury believed that Bunton always intended to return the painting if his ransom negotiations failed (and he did return the painting) then they must acquit. Heeding the judge’s advice, the jury found Bunton not guilty of having stolen the Goya—but he was found guilty of having stolen the painting’s frame, which was never returned. He was given a slap on the wrist, three months in prison, and was gently scolded by the judge, who said: “motives, even if they are good, cannot justify theft, and creeping into public galleries in order to extract pictures of value so that you can use them for your own purposes has got to be discouraged.”

This comical theft would play a major role in shaping UK law. In 1968, as part of England’s new Theft Act, Parliament included a clause which made it illegal to “remove without authority any object displayed or kept for display to the public in a building to which the public have access,” thereby making Bunton’s “borrowing” of the Goya a criminal offense.

Television licenses were eventually revoked for old age pensioners, satisfying, long after the fact, the unusual ransom demands of Kempton Bunton. But in recent weeks the issue has once more been in question. Would a latter-day Bunton be prompted to make a similar, high-profile statement in protest to the licensing fee? The matter was finally resolved on 20 October of this year, when it was announced that free license fees for pensioners will be extended until at least 2017.

Kempton Bunton, floating on his cloud up in Heaven, must be looking down upon us with a satisfied smile.

We would like to thank Alan Hirsch for research assistance on this article.

March 11, 2009

Wednesday, March 11, 2009 - ,,, No comments

ARCAblog Podcast: The 1961 Goya Art Theft

In July 2008, ARCA director, Noah Charney delivered a lecture at Cambridge University which discussed the 1961 art theft of Goya's "Portrait of the Duke of Wellington," 1812-14. The theft grabbed headlines for the unusual ransom demands made for the return of the painting. The stolen Goya was even referenced in pop culture when it was shown hanging on a wall in the 1962 James Bond film Dr. No. As Charney discusses, the trial that ensued after the painting's recovery helped to reshape and redefine "theft" under British common law. The podcast can be found here or by clicking this post's title as well.