Showing posts with label recovered. Show all posts
Showing posts with label recovered. Show all posts

February 12, 2020

Convictions in the Nizam Museum Theft.

Image Credit: Hyderabad Police
Two burglars, Mohammed Mubeen (24) and Mohammed Ghouse Pasha (23), responsible for the jewelry theft from the Nizam Museum housed in the Purani Haveli palace have been found guilty and convicted by a local court in Hyderabad, India on Tuesday. 

The palace was once the official residence of the Nizam, the last of whom ruled over the region from 1911 to 1948, when Hyderabad State was annexed by India. 

The pair entered the museum sometime on the evening of Sunday, September 2, 2018 by dislodging a ventilation grill which allowed them to enter an exhibition gallery where they proceeded to break into a non alarmed exhibition case and make off with a three-tier diamond-studded gold tiffin box with trays, as well as a golden tea cup and saucer embedded with ruby and emeralds, a spoon and a tray which once belonged to the 7th Nizam. Tiffins (or dhabbas) are traditionally round metal lunch containers with three or four stacking compartments used for serving traditional homemade thali lunches which feature bread, pickles, spicy curries, and sometimes desserts.

With the help of the public, Hyderabad City Police's Commissioner’s Task Force (South) team quickly recovered the stolen museum objects a short while later and identified the pair, who were then formally charged. 
Yesterday, City Police Commissioner Anjani Kumar confirmed that the court had issued its verdict, sentencing the duo to two years of imprisonment.

January 17, 2020

Recovered: Divān Manuscript containing the poetry collection of Hafez - the 14th century Persian poet of Shiraz, Fars Province, Iran


“Ever since happiness heard your name, 
it has been running through the streets trying to find you.”
--Khwāja Šamsu d-Dīn Muḥammad Hāfez-e Šīrāzī 

Thanks to the ongoing work of private investigators and cooperating law enforcement, family heirs will soon have back a rare centuries-old Persian manuscript collected by their relative.  The 14th century text was stolen from the private possessions of Iranian art collector Djafar Ghazy, who had lived in Neuhausen, in the district of Enz in Baden-Württemberg in Germany until his death at 86 in September 2007.  

While settling the estate of the lifetime bachelor, his remaining heirs discovered documentation attesting to the purchase of a valuable literary collection made up of numerous Persian and Islamic manuscripts.  In addition to sales documents, the family found a detailed computerized list of the items the collector had amassed legitimately over 45 years.  The manuscripts and books themselves however, were nowhere to be found, apparently stolen by someone at some point prior to the elderly engineer's death.  

Turning first to a German private investigator, Erhard Reuther who in turn encouraged the family to file their complain with his former employer, the Bavarian State Criminal Police Office (LKA), the investigation focused in on two caregivers who took an interest in the reclusive man prior to his death.  Upon obtaining a court order in December 2011, the LKA searched the apartment and storage area of "Mohamad K." in the neighborhood of Zamdorf near Munich.  Mohamed had befriended the collector and was known to have met him for coffee and to drive him to and from his doctor appointments.  

At the culprit's home, hidden in bags and suitcases in a storage shed in the basement, law enforcement officers discovered a total of 174 books, drawings and manuscripts, some of them finely illustrated by hand with exacting imagery and fine gold leaf.  The nail on the thief's coffin: the seized objects, matched the computer inventory the collector had maintained, creating a smoking book, if not a smoking gun.  In total, the theft appears to have been worth some three million euros in assets. 

Unfortunately, two important items were not among the stash seized by the German police.  One was a missing 14th century manuscript containing the poetry of Hafez and another was an unnamed text the thief apparently sold through a London auction house for a million British pounds.  Elderly himself, Mohamad K's only alibi was to claim that Ghazy saw him as his son and had given him everything.  The prosecution thought otherwise.  At the conclusion of his trial in Munich District Court the thief was found guilty, but given his advancing age, he was only given a two year suspended sentence.  

After the recovery, two magnificent copies of the Koran, willed by the collector in the form of a letter penned by Ghazy and slipped inside the books' cover, were bequeathed to the Bastan Museum in Tehran. These were then turned over to Abdollah Nekounam Ghadiri, Consul General of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Two other items, an astrological manuscript and a collection of poems by Ali Sirâsî, both from the 17th century, were gifted by the family to the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek (the Bavarian State Library) for their assistance in identifying and cataloging the objects in their relative's collection.  The rest of the gentlemen's property was eventually returned to the collector's family in 2016, almost ten years after the collector's death, following a lengthy five-year follow-up to determine if any of the objects in Ghazy's literary collection were of licit origin or stolen.  

Yet from there the trail of the still missing Hafez Divān, went cold. 

It has been estimated that there are at least 1,000 originally transcribed manuscripts of Hafez's poetry in Iran and other parts of the world, though not all represent the poet's complete Divān. The earliest known version is held in the al-Beruni Institute for Oriental Studies collection at the Uzbek Academy of Sciences, in Tashkent, of the Republic of Uzbekistan. It is dated 803 (1400-01) and was copied by Borhān b. Ḡiāsò Kermāni.

Known by his pen name Hafez, Khwāja Šamsu d-Dīn Muḥammad Hāfez-e Šīrāzī, (c. 1320-1389), the poet was a Sufi Muslim honored for his mastery of Persian ghazals, which constitute the bulk of his compendium, Divān.  Believed to be the pinnacle of Persian literature, in literary circles his works are considered to be one of the seven literary wonders of the world and as a writer and poet he has achieved iconic status as a symbol of Persian cultural and literary identity.  

Translated into English for the first time by Sir William Jones in 1771, Western writers and philosophers, such as Ralph Waldo Emerson and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche, and even Arthur Conan Doyle, each in their own way paid homage to the historic Iranian writer's works.  This despite the fact that the poet's controversial verse covers everything from the hypocrisy of holy men and authorities, to love, and even the consumption of alcohol. 

This is because Hafez's words occupy a particularly hallowed space in Iranian culture, and has for centuries.  Faced with a difficult situation or decision, some Iranians are known to turn the Fal-e Hafez, a cultural tradition which roughly translates to divination via Hafez. As part of this tradition, a reader asks Hafiz, the Lisan al-Gaib, as the voice from the outer world, for his advice at an important juncture or perhaps for guidance during a dilemma in their life. 

Poetry engraved on the marble of the tomb of the great Persian writer Hafez,
Shiraz, Fars Province, Iran
To find where this Persianate manuscript had gone, the relatives of Ghazy also tried their luck by posting advertisements in German newspapers.  In them, they listed a reward of 50,000 euros.  But it wasn't until the end of 2018 when Arthur Brand, a Dutch private investigator specializing in art recovery, received a solid tip through a German art dealer of Iranian origin.  From there the trail began to look promising.

Reward Flyer
Image Credit: Arthur Brand  
Working a series of leads that lead him from Europe to the UK, Brand came to learn that the bound manuscript had been purchased in 2011 while the stolen text was still in Germany.  Acquired by a now deceased dealer, who in turn sold the text to an important collector of Persian ancient manuscripts living in England, the manuscript appeared to have travelled from the UK back to Europe briefly, when its last buyer, confronted with the problematic nature of his purchase, wanted to get his money back.  

Through a series of exchanges Brand was able to convince the collector to relinquish the important manuscript which measures 21 x 13 cm and contains 159 handwritten pages. The words of the poet are delicately transcribed by the prominent scribe Shaykh Mahmud in 867 (1462.3), was was possibly commissioned by the Qara Quyunlu ruler, Pir Budaq to write down the author's words shortly after the poet's death. 

Brand will now transport the rare transcription back to the German authorities, there it will then be returned to Ghazy's heirs. Speaking with Arthur Brand this evening about the forthcoming restitution, the art investigator stated "I would like to give special thanks to William Veres who again was crucial to this objects recovery."  The London based, Hungarian-born antiquities dealer has also provided credible assistance to Brand on the recovery of the ring once owned by Irish poet and playwright Oscar Wilde. 


November 17, 2019

Recovered: Ring once owned by Irish poet and playwright Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wills Wilde


Note:  This article has been revised to include an interview with Arthur Brand at the closure of this article: 

Engraved with Greek lettering, a gold ring donated by the Irish poet and playwright Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wills Wilde has been recovered. The author 
Albumen Photo of Oscar Wilde, 1882
by Napoleon Sarony
National Portrait Gallery NPG P24
of scintillating essays and The Picture of Dorian Gray donated the ring to his second alma mater, the University of Oxford, in 1876.  A place where, looking back on his life Wilde reflected pivotally in a letter to his lover Lord Alfred Douglas that "the two great turning points in my life were when my father sent me to Oxford and when Society sent me to prison." ('De Profundis' — O. W.).  It was the young lord's father who brought about Wilde's spectacular fall from grace.

Wilde read Classics as an undergraduate at Oxford from 1874 to 1878. His ring was once displayed in a butterfly case alongside the  "Magdalen" papyrus, three pieces of a manuscript donated by Reverend Charles B. Huleatt.  The ring disappeared from Magdalen College on May 2, 2002 in the early morning hours when Eamonn Andrews A.K.A. Anderson, a former Magdalen cleaner and handyman broke into the college, stole whiskey from the college bar and then impulsively made off with the 18-carat gold friendship ring and two rowing medals: the 1910 Henley Royal Regatta Grand Challenge Cup medal and a 1932 silver and bronze medal presented to RFG Sarell in 1932. 

The "Old Library" of Magdalen College in Oxford.
When forensic evidence quickly linked the thief to the crime, Andrews confessed, telling police during his interrogation that he had sold the ring and medals to a London scrap metal dealer for just £150.  Andrews was subsequently sentenced to two years incarceration for this offense, yet despite a modest reward, the 18-carat gold literary artifact seemed lost, and would remain missing for 17 years. 

But Wilde's famous ring was too important and too valuable to be melted down, something the fence Andrews delivered the ring to evidently knew.  Collaborating with London based Hungarian-born antiquities dealer William Thomas Veres, a dealer with a less than pristine background written about often on this blog, Arthur Brand, a Dutch private investigator worked credible leads which led to the eventual recovery of the author's ring. 

Brand's informant (or informants) led him to explore details of the famous April 2015 London heist at the Hatton Garden Safe Deposit Company.  That multi-million pound heist took place over the four-day Easter and Passover holidays and was carried out by a gang of mostly elderly robbers, in what some believe was to be their swan song burglary before retiring for good. 

During this heist some of the culprits dressed as gas repair men as they drilled away for hours before eventually boring their way through a 50 centimeter wall to gain access the storage facility, while bypassing the main door.  Once through the wall, the team of burglars ransacked a total of 73 safety boxes containing gold jewellery, precious and semi precious stones, documents and cash. 

Destroyed safety deposit boxes at
Hatton Garden Safe Deposit Company after the 2015 burglary
Following up on leads London's Metropolitan Police would eventually arrest ten suspects.  Hatton Garden Safe Deposit Company never recovered and went into liquidation. Ultimately eight career criminals involved in the dramatic heist would be sentenced for their involvement.  

John "Kenny" Collins pled guilty to conspiracy to commit burglary and initially sentenced to a seven-year prison term and pay a total of £27.5 million or face another seven years in jail. 

Hugh Doyle was found guilty of concealing, converting or transferring criminal property and was sentenced to 21 months in prison, suspended for two years. 

Daniel Jones pled guilty to conspiracy to commit burglary and initially sentenced to a seven-year prison term and pay a total of £27.5 million or face another seven years in jail. 

William Lincoln was found guilty of conspiracy to commit burglary and one count of conspiracy to conceal, convert or transfer criminal property and was sentenced to a seven-year prison term. 

Terry Perkins pled guilty to conspiracy to commit burglary and  initially sentenced to a seven-year prison term and to pay a total of £27.5 million or face another seven years in jail but died one week after the ruling.  

Brian Reader was sentenced to a six years and three months prison term and to pay a total of £27.5 million or face another seven years in jail. 

Michael Seed was found guilty of burglary and conspiracy to burgle and was sentenced to 10 years in prison. 

Carl Wood was found guilty of conspiracy to commit burglary and one count of conspiracy to conceal, convert or transfer criminal property and was sentenced to a six-year prison term. 

Jon Harbinson was found not guilty and discharged.  

Paul Reader was never charged.

Of the £14 million in loot taken during the Hatton Garden burglary only a fraction of the stolen property, approximately £4,3 million, was ever recovered. Yet whispers from not so literary criminal informants with knowledge of the London heist's haul spoke of one of the items grabbed in the burglary:  

...a Victorian gold ring inscribed with what they thought was Russian text.   

For now details about Brand's recovery are limited due to the nature of the investigation, though this is not the first time that the name of the London art merchant William Veres has been connected to the Dutch investigator's recoveries, as Mr. Brand openly admits when interviewed. 

In November 2018 Veres was connected to Brand in the recovery of a 6th century byzantine mosaic of Saint Mark which once decorated the apse of the church of Panaya Kanakaria in Lythrangomi, Northern Cyprus. Veres' name also came up a second time in January 2019, connected to Brand's recovery of two 7th century limestone reliefs which originally adorned the church of Santa Maria de Lara.  

When asked about the London dealer's motives for helping, Mr Brand stated first and foremost, that Mr. Veres is never paid for the assistance he gives on these cases.  Secondly he stated that though he [Veres] has had encounters with the law in the past, Brand believes that these assists might help the dealer in cleaning up his reputation.  Lastly, Brand stated that you cannot recover stolen art with the help of the Salvation Army, and underscored "all my investigations, including this one, are conducted with the local police authorities full knowledge and are completely legal in the eyes of the law."

When asked about George Crump, who Brand states facilitated in this investigation, the private investigator stated that Crump is "an honest man who knows the London criminal world thanks to his late uncle, a former owner of a casino."  Brant also indicated that Crump's uncle died decades ago but that the nephew still knows his late Uncle's old friends and was therefore "the best person to discreetly inquire as to where the ring might be located, and indeed he succeeded."

The story of this recovery has been filmed by a Dutch film crew and will be aired as part of a documentary in the Summer of 2020.  For now Oscar Wilde's ring is is set to go on display, Wednesday December 4th during a ceremony at the University of Oxford. 

September 4, 2019

Recovered: Stolen portrait of William Chester of East Haddon recovered after almost 30 years

LAPD Detective Detective Mel Vergara with
recovered painting stolen in 1991
Sometimes art is stolen with little public fanfare with the loss to owners never making newspaper headlines in quite the same way museum thefts do. This was the case almost thirty years ago when a thief or a group of thieves broke into the home of Judy Karinen in Hollywood Hills in 1991.  During that burglary, the culprit made off with a portrait of William Chester of East Haddon, painted around 1664, which Karinen had purchased for $4,000 in 1985.  


The painting was recovered this past summer, one of 50 stolen paintings Los Angeles police identified via a lead related to an auction earlier this year.  Searching through years of old police records, this single lost portrait was eventually identified by Los Angeles Police Detective Mel Vergara, who then contacted the painting's owner who was happy to have good news from the police department.

As a reminder to all art owners, LAPD officials commented that without the owner's original photo of the portrait of William Chester of East Haddon, which had been attached to the old police report, the stolen painting might never have been identified by officers doing a thorough records search.  Photographing and documenting your collection is key for detective work, as well as for most insurance policies.  Photographic records are also mandatory for listing missing items within the FBI's National Stolen Art File (NSAF) and in some other art loss databases such as the ones managed by Art Loss Register and Artive.

For now, the LAPD's search for artwork owners continues and the squad is asking for help identifying the owners of the portrait of a woman pictured above.  

August 6, 2019

Recovered: Almost half a century after it was stolen the Portrait of Admiral Charles Fanshawe comes home


In September 1971 six portraits were stolen during a burglary at the Valence House Museum in the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham. Shortly after the thefts, law enforcement recovered two of the art works and all 6 frames but over the next four decades the investigation would grind to a standstill with no further recoveries.

That changed in January 2019 when the Fanshawe family set up a Google Alert to notify them if and when any family memorabilia might come up for sale and through a bit of good luck, received a Google notification that a Fanshawe portrait, listed at a value of $3000, was to be auctioned in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. 

With the help of the FBI Legal Attaché in London and the Upper Dublin Police Department, London's Metropolitan Police Art and Antiques Unit worked with the FBI's art crime team in the United States to recover the portrait which is set to go on display later this month. 

April 11, 2019

The "Portrait of Marta Ghezzi Baldinotti," stolen 32 years ago from Palazzo Chigi, is finally home

Brigadier Chief Antonio Di Garbo with Arch. Francesco Petrucci at Palazzo Chigi
On Wednesday, April 10th, in a formal restitution celebration, Lieutenant Angelo Giovanni Busciglio, Brigadier Chief Antonio Di Garbo, and Deputy Brigadier Filippo Vassallo, of the Carabinieri Nucleus for the Protection of Cultural Heritage - Palermo, were honoured for their recovery efforts during a ceremony held at Palazzo Chigi, in the historic center of Ariccia.

Recovered Portrait if Marta Ghezzi Baldinotti, Palazzo Chigi - 10 April 2019
The unit was directly responsible for the discovery and return of an oil-on-canvas portrait depicting Marta Ghezzi Baldinotti (1649-1718), the wife of marchese Cesare Baldinotti, which once hung in the palace's stanza delle belle and had been stolen from the historic palazzo 32 years ago, along with 20 other works of art.  Portraiture of well bred ladies, those that made up the so-called galleria delle belle or cabinets des dames, were leitmotiv in the furnishing of noble residences during the seventeenth century.

Federico Fellini, immortalized next to
the portrait in Palazzo Chigi's "stanza delle belle".
The painting is attributed to Jacob Ferdinand Voet, a Flemish portrait painter from the Baroque period who is known for his portraits. The artist had an international career, which brought him to both Italy and France where he made portraits for members of elite families and appears to be strikingly similar to another portrait of the Marchioness which likely helped with the unsigned artwork's attribution and identification.  After training in Paris, Voet spent time in Rome, then Florence, and lastly Turin before returning, first to Antwerp in 1684 and later in 1686, to Paris where he was called as a painter of the French court. The Marchioness was the daughter of Felice Angelo Ghezzi, the Duke of Carpignano and Baron Zullino. On April 17, 1667, she married the Marquis Cesare Baldinotti di Pistoia (1636-1728) who was the Duke of Pescorocchiano.

Matching portraits of Marta Ghezzi Baldinotti
The painting was located on the art market by Brigadier Chief Antonio Di Garbo of the Carabinieri del Nucleo Tutela Patrimonio Culturale (TPC) in Palermo in the sales inventory of an antiques dealer in Palermo.  During a series of investigative procedures, as well as a crosscheck of records within the Carabinieri Leonardo Stolen Art database, and with architect Francesco Petrucci, who is the conservator of works of art at Palazzo Chigi, the law enforcement officer's match was validated and the antiquarian questioned by the Carabinieri.   Giving an implausible answer as to how and where he had acquired the stolen painting and unable to substantiate a legitimate claim to the portrait, the painting was seized in the Autumn of 2018.

Palazzo Chigi's "stanza delle belle" then

During their investigations the Carabinieri squad in Sicily also identified a second individual from Marsala, who along with the antiquarian was referred to the Public Prosecutor's Office at the Court of Palermo where both have been denounced for receiving stolen goods.

Palazzo Chigi's "stanza delle belle" now

As a painter Voet was highly sought after and had numerous followers and imitators, many who copied his style of portraiture of well bred ladies.

March 26, 2019

Recovered: Picasso portrait of Dora Maar


After negotiations that stretched from the UK, to the Netherlands and beyond, a Pablo Picasso portrait of photographer Dora Maar, stolen in 1999, has been recovered thanks to the work of private investigators.

Painted in 1938, Buste de Femme, is one of 63 known works in homage to Picasso's muse of nine years.  The artwork was stolen on March 11, 1999 from a 238 foot private yacht owned by the sometimes controversial Saudi billionaire Sheikh Abdul Mohsen Abdulmalik Al-Sheikh.  The theft occurred while his vessel, Coral Island, was harbored at Antibes on the Côte d’Azur in France undergoing refurbishment.

According to reports, just prior to its theft, the painting had been hung in the luxury vessel's primary living room, but had been removed temporarily from its pride of place and alarmed position while the room was being redecorated.  Packed precisely, it had been relocated to another locked room, placed carefully alongside a second artwork by Henri Matisse.  The Picasso was stolen, but the Matisse was not. And interestingly, the CCTV at the Antibes dock where the ship was moored, was conveniently malfunctioning.

The painting was eventually traced to the home of a Dutch real estate developer, who reportedly acted in good faith at the time of the purchase and was not aware of the theft.  In a post published on Twitter, Dutch art historian Arthur Brand released his own statement announcing his recovery along with a photograph of the artwork. 


Speaking with the Dutch morning news outlet Volkskrant Brand said "Once people realize that it is a stolen thing, they want to get rid of it." ...“They don't dare go to the police, they are afraid of it being stolen or being arrested while they have nothing to do with it. And then they come to me.”

Less than a month ago, intermediaries brought the painting to Brand’s apartment in Amsterdam.  On hand was Dick Ellis, the retired founder of Scotland Yard’s art and antiques squad.  An ARCA trustee, Ellis now works as a private investigator, in this case representing the insurance company who legally owns the stolen Picasso.  A representative from New York’s Pace Gallery, where the painting had previously been purchased, was flown in to authenticate the painting at a high-security location in Amsterdam.

Police in France and the Netherlands have issued statements that they will not prosecute the painting's last owner as the artwork apparently changed hands several times over the waning years. As the painting was insured, it is now the property of the insurance company, who will decide what to do with it next. 

Who ultimately gets to keep the artwork will depend on the policy-holder's "buy-back" rights, if he had any.  Buy back rights are specifically written clauses contained in property insurance policies that insure against physical loss or damage of high-value tangible property. In some cases buy-back clauses give the insured, in this case a private owner, first rights when in comes to buying the object back from the insurance company after having received a payout.  

As has been the case in the past, high-value, high-portability and rapidly appreciating works of art that have been stolen and subsequently recovered often bring large sums when they are sold after their recovery. 

November 28, 2018

Wednesday, November 28, 2018 - ,,,, No comments

Recovered: "Portrait of Marta Ghezzi Baldinotti" stolen 32 years ago from Palazzo Chigi

Image Credit:  Carabinieri TPC
The team of the Carabinieri del Nucleo Tutela Patrimonio Culturale (TPC) in Palermo, under the command of Magg. Luigi Mancuso, has proven once again that patience makes perfect when it comes to the recovery of stolen art.  While the squad has not yet recovered the Nativity with St Francis and St Lawrence, the Caravaggio masterpiece stolen in 1969, they have recovered a painting from the 1600s stolen thirty-two years ago.  

The painting, an oil on canvas, is a portrait of Marta Ghezzi Baldinotti (1649-1718), wife of marchese Cesare Baldinotti, and was taken from Palazzo Chigi, a historic building in the historic center of Ariccia, in the province of Rome. The artwork was identified during a series of investigations as well as a crosscheck of records within the Carabinieri Leonardo Stolen Art database and was found to be part of the inventory of an antiques dealer in Palermo. 

Questioned by law enforcement, the antiquarian gave an implausible answer as to how and where he had acquired the works and when pressed for proof of ownership was unable to substantiate legitimate his ownership or how how he came to be in possession of the oil painting.  

During their investigations the Carabinieri squad in Sicily also identified a second individual, from Marsala, who along with the antiquarian has been referred to the Public Prosecutor's Office at the Court of Palermo for receiving stolen goods.


While the press release from the Carabinieri have not listed the name of the artist who painted the portrait the oil painting appears strikingly similar to another portrait of the Marchioness Marta Ghezzi Baldinotti attributed to Jacob Ferdinand Voet, a Flemish portrait painter from the Baroque period who is known for his portraits. He had an international career, which brought him to Italy and France where he made portraits for an elite.

Image Credit:
Screen Capture Sotheby's website
29 Nov 2018
After training in Paris, he spent much time in Rome, then Florence and Turin, before returning, first to Antwerp in 1684 and later in 1686, to Paris as a painter of the French court. The Marchioness was the daughter of Felice Angelo Ghezzi, the Duke of Carpignano and Baron Zullino. On April 17, 1667, she married the Marquis Cesare Baldinotti di Pistoia (1636-1728) who was the Duke of Pescorocchiano.

That version, which once belonged to architect, interior decorator and garden designer Giles Newby Vincent, was purchased by the architect in Paris in 2006 for €26,400, who then put the artwork up for auction in London at Bonham's in 2014 for between £20,000 and £30,000 but the painting went unsold. In 2016, it sold at auction in Paris at Sotheby's for €20,000.

Image Credit: Screen Capture Bonham's website 28 Nov 2018
As a painter Voet was highly sought after and had numerous followers and imitators, many who copied his style of portraiture of well bred ladies, those that made up the so-called galleria delle belle or cabinets des dames, which was  leitmotiv in the furnishing of noble residences during the seventeenth century when the artist was still alive.

November 18, 2018

Recovered? Anonymous tip may have lead to Picasso's "Tete d'Arlequin" stolen from the Kunsthal in Rotterdam in 2012.


On October 16, 2012 Dutch police confirmed that seven paintings had been stolen, shortly after 3 a.m. local time, from the Kunsthal museum in Rotterdam.  The paintings which were taken, Pablo Picasso's Tete d'Arlequin, Henri Matisse's La Liseuse en Blanc et Jaune and Waterloo Bridge, London,  Claude Monet's Charing Cross, London, Paul Gauguin's Femme Devant une Fenêtre Ouverte, dite La Fiancée, Jacob Meyer de Haan's Autoportrait, and Lucian Freud's Woman with Eyes Closed were estimated to be worth millions.  

The stolen art works were part of the museum's Avant Guard Exhibition, which highlighted material on loan from the private Triton Foundation collection. Built over twenty years, by Rotterdam oil and shipping magnate Willem Cordia and his wife Marijke van der Laan, the exhibition, was set to run from 7 October 2012 until 20 January 2013, and was the first time any artwork from the Triton Collection had been exhibited publicly. 

The Triton body of artworks is made up of approximately 250 paintings, drawings and pieces of sculpture belonging to art movements from 1870 through 1970.  The collection includes works by many by the most influential 19th and 20th century artists in the tradition of Impressionism, Expressionism, and Analytical Cubism.  At the time of the theft, the collection was reputed to be one of the 200 most important private collections in the world.  

Shortly after the theft, and as the law enforcement investigation progressed, formal charges were brought against a group of suspects of Romanian origin.   Charges against Radu Dogaru, the ringleader who was found to have orchestrated the heist, his mother, Olga, Eugen Darie and Adrian Procop were all eventually brought.  Around the globe, their trials were closely watched in the hopes that the defendants might shed some light during their testimony on whether or not the seven paintings and drawings remained safe.  Early in the investigation Mr. Dogaru’s mother claimed to have torched the artworks, in order to dispose of the evidence which could be used against her son.

Despite recanting her statement later, experts from Romania's Muzeul Naţional de Istorie a României (National History Museum of Romania - MNIR) provided testimony that seemingly validated Olga Dogaru's grim confession.  Ash and remains analyzed from a stove in her home in the village of Carcaliu in eastern Romania included nails from frames used before the end of the 19th century.  Yet, as pointed out by Maria Vasii, one of the attorney's for the defendants, the only painting with canvas tacks was the one by Lucian Freud.  As that artwork was completed in the year 2000, the nails would not have been made of copper and could not possibly have come from a 19th or 20th century production. Vasii also pointed out that the other paintings which were stolen were canvas glued onto cardboard and had no nails whatsoever. 

Despite the questions remaining as to what had actually become of the stolen artworks, Radu Dogaru and Eugen Darie, pled guilty for their roles in the theft on October 22, 2013. As a result of their confessions, the Third District Court of Romania sentenced Dogaru to 6 years and Eugen Darie to 5 years and 4 months (following sentencing appeals) for their involvement in the crime and for membership in a criminal organisation. 

Alexandru Mihai Bitu also received a sentence - two years for handling stolen goods. Adrian Procop, arrested in Manchester, England and extradited to Bucharest, was sentenced to prison for four years and 10 months for the formation of an organized criminal group and to four years and eight months for theft. Some of his prison time was reduced as the punishments were slated to run concurrently.  

Petre Condrat, involved in trying to find a buyer for the Matisse and the Gauguin, was fined 45,000 Romanian lei, the equivalent of approximately €9642. Dogaru's mother, Olga, was sentenced to two years in prison, convicted of aiding criminal behavior.

Interestingly, during Radu Dogaru's trial he gave a deposition that contradicted his mother's earlier confession to burning the paintings and told the court that his mother made false statements about incinerating the art works under pressure by interrogators. It was believed at the time that Radu may have been motivated by the hope that, along with her recanted testimony, his testimony might help his mother avoid a prison sentence.  

Now, six years later, an anonymous letter has been received by a Dutch writer of Romanian origin, Mira Feticu, the contents of which reportedly stated where one of the seven stolen works of art might be found.

But has the stolen Picasso really been spared the fiery furnace? 

Painted the year before the artist's death, Picasso's Head of a Harlequin (1971) is an art work done in pen and brush in black ink, colored pencil and pastel on thick brown wove paper.  It measures 38 x 29 cm and is "signed and dated in the lower right corner "Picasso/12.1./71". It was purchased by the Triton Foundation in 2009.

Image Credit: Facebook user Mira Feticu
Mira Feticu has told reporters that the letter was sent to her at her Hague address because she wrote a book in 2015 about the Kunsthal theft which was also translated into Romanian.  Following the indications spelled out in a few short sentences of Romanian, Feticu and Frank Westerman have stated that they used the letter to guide them to Tulcea County, Romania.  There, they report they were able to identify the spot underneath a tree where the writer of the letter had indicated the missing Picasso could be found. 

Clearing away snow and leaves, the pair told law enforcement that they found the fragile artwork wrapped in plastic.   Photographing it in the car, they then turned the artwork over to the Dutch Embassy in Bucharest. Westerman has since posted video footage of law enforcement authorities examining the work of art on his Facebook page. 

Image Credit: Facebook user Mira Feticu
For now, a team of DIICOT prosecutors and police officers of the Criminal Investigation Directorate - IGPR will conduct a follow up investigation.  To determine if the drawing is authentic, or part of an elaborate hoax, it has been sent to the National Museum of Art of Romania located in the Royal Palace Bucharest.  There art historians will work to assist in determining or negating the artwork's authenticity.  

Insured against losses, in September 2013 the Triton Foundation received a $24 million payout for the theft of their seven artworks from their insurance underwriter, Lloyd's of London.  In doing so, the foundation has relinquished the titles to each of the seven stolen works of art, should any of them ever be recovered.  This means, if this "Picasso" is authenticated, (and that's a pretty big if), the insurance firm would be the rightful owner.

Me, I have my doubts.  


Straightening the image presented by Feticu taken in the car, and then comparing it side by side with the original stolen artwork I see numerous points of difference in addition to many color variations. A few of these I have redlined.  I am not an authenticator, nor am I an expert on Picasso's work, or the degradation of paper drawings over time, but to me, it doesn't seem to be the original, as much as it would make me happy if it were.

UPDATE:

Theater makers Yves Degryse and Bart Baele have admitted that the found "Picasso" in Romania is a hoax, part of a publicity stunt for their performance True Copy, which premiered last week. 

By:  Lynda Albertson

October 29, 2018

Recovered: 26 years after its theft "San Carlo Borromeo in Contemplation"

Image Credit: https://www.ilcittadino.it

In a ceremony held at the San Pietro Apostolo in Cavenago d'Adda, Italy, parishioners celebrate the return of the 17th century painting "San Carlo Borromeo in Contemplation" by early Baroque artist Daniele Crespi.   Stolen twenty-six years ago, on February 5, 1992,  together with two other portraits, one of San Francesco d'Assisi and another of Sant'Anna, one of the three paintings has been recovered by officers from the Venice division of Italy's Comando Carabinieri Tutela Patrimonio Culturale, under the supervision of Major Christian Costantini, commander. 

Focusing on thefts of works of art related to places of worship, the painting was found in September the possession of an individual living in Borso del Grappa (Treviso) accused of receiving stolen goods. 

This is not the first artwork by Daniele Crespi to have been stolen and recovered by the Carabinieri.

Image Credit:  Carabinieri TPC
The painting "Il Christo, Salvator Mundi" was stolen in between the 16th and the 17th of January 1989 from the private residence of an art collector in Castiglione Olona.  Recognised by the Carabinieri TPC in November 2011, the squad identified the stolen artwork from auction records at Sotheby's dating to 2004 in London.  After confirming with the painting's heirs that the artwork matched their stolen object and without valid export documentation. 


September 11, 2018

Recovery: Gold Objects stolen from the Nizam Museum

Image Credit: Hyderabad Police

Holding a press conference in Hyderabad, authorities announced that the  gold tiffin box, saucer, cup & spoon stolen from Nizam Museum on September 3rd have been recovered by Hyderabad Police. The two accused, Mohammed Gaus Pasha (23) and a relative Mohammed Mubeen (24) from the Himayat Sagar area of ​​the city have been arrested.

The pair of thieves had accessed the museum by dislodging a four-feet wide ventilation grill and then dropping some 20 feet down into the exhibition gallery.  

For full details on the theft please see ARCA's earlier blog post here. 

September 5, 2018

Museum Theft: Nizam Museum (HEH Nizam's Museum) Hyderabad, India


According to local authorities, thieves broke into the Nizam Museum housed on the first floor of the Purani Haveli palace located in Hyderabad, Telangana, India sometime on the evening of Sunday, September 2, 2018.  The palace, located just a few kilometers away from Chowmahalla Palace, is also home to a library and the Mukarram Jah Technical Institute.

In the past the palace was once the official residence of the Nizam, the last of whom ruled over the region from 1911 to 1948, when Hyderabad State was annexed by India.  The museum showcases many gifts that the 7th and last Nizam, Mir Osman Ali Khan, Asaf Jah VII received on his silver jubilee in 1936.  The museum  has been privately run by the Nizam’s Jubilee Pavillion Trust, and managed by descendants of the Nizam since the year 2000.  It houses approximately 450 objects in its collection.

Dislodging a four-feet wide ventilation grill, the burglar or burglars appear to have worked as a coordinated pair, dropping some 20 feet down into the exhibition gallery.  


Once inside one of the culprits broke into a non alarmed exhibition case and removed a three-tier diamond-studded gold tiffin box with trays carved with flora and fauna, as well as a golden tea cup and saucer embedded with ruby and emeralds, a spoon and a tray which once belonged to the 7th Nizam. Tiffins (or dhabbas) are traditionally round metal lunch containers with three or four stacking compartments used for serving traditional homemade thali lunches which feature bread, pickles, spicy curries, and sometimes desserts.


Once the goods were in hand, the thief was then hoisted back up and out of the same way he entered before making their getaway.



The loss was discovered the following morning by the museum's personnel who discovered the broken locks and empty showcase and then alerted the police.


CCTV Footage of suspected burglers

Journalists in India report that workers at the museum have been asking for security upgrades for quite some time.   Initial thoughts on the theft are leaning towards someone familiar with its limited security as one of the limited number of museum CCTV cameras had been tilted in such a way as to limit the image capture of the burgler(s). 

July 21, 2018

Recovered: "The Holy Family" by Peter Paul Rubens and "Girls on the Lawn" by Pierre-Auguste Renoir

Image Credit:  Carabinieri TPC - Monza Unit
In June 2018 five individuals, were charged by the Carabinieri of the Cultural Heritage Protection Unit in Monza, Italy in connection with the theft of two paintings, "The Holy Family" (Italian: "La sacra famiglia") by Flemish artist Peter Paul Rubens and "Girls on the Lawn" (Italian: "Le fanciulle sul prato") by the French Impressionist painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir.  

During the heist, which took place on April 20, 2017, one of the accomplices posed as a potential buyer, and staged an elaborate hoax, in which Nenad Jovanovic, presented himself as an Israeli rabbinical diplomat, calling himself Samuel Abraham Lewy Graham.   Over the course of several appointments, the man convinced the two gallery representatives that he was a legitimate buyer, willing to purchase both works of art for a negotiated price of 26 million euros (about $30 million).  Once the bait was set and the accomplices set about renting meeting space at Via Quintino Sella in Monza below the offices of the Albanian honorary consul to legitimise their ruse that the transaction for the paintings' sale was all set to be finalised.


Instead, Jovanovic, along with another accomplice, absconded with the boxes which contained the paintings using a nearby Peugeot automobile to make their getaway. 

Seventeen months later, a total of eight individuals have been implicated in the crime and law enforcement authorities announced yesterday that both works of art have been recovered this week from inside a warehouse in the province of Turin.

Major Francesco Provenza of the Carabinieri has stated that the recovered canvases will now undergo scientific evaluation by experts who have been appointed by the Monza prosecutors in order to verify their authenticity and attribution.

February 23, 2018

Recovered: "Les Choristes" by Edgar Degas

Image Credit:  INTERPOL Works of Art Database
Stolen from the Musée Cantini in Marseille, France, on Thursday, December 31, 2009, a pastel by 19th century Impressionist painter, Edgar Degas titled "Les Choristes" (also referred to as Les Figurants) has been recovered. 

At the time of the theft, investigators found no apparent signs of a break-in and reported that the 27cm by 32cm pastel had simply been unfastened from the wall where it was being displayed while on loan from the Musée d’Orsay in Paris for an exhibition showcasing twenty works by the famous artist. 

Hidden in the luggage compartment of a bus in Seine-et-Marne, the artwork was recovered by agents of the Marne-la-Vallée customs brigade on February 16, 2018 during a routine customs check in the area of ​​Ferrieres which borders the A4 motorway. No passengers on board the bus have admitted to placing it there.

 checked a bus stationed on the Ferrières-en-Brie motorway in Seine-et-Marne.
Even as the art work was still undergoing authentication, the official account of the French Customs Info Customs Service felt confident they have a match.

In a public announcement issued today, Françoise Nyssen, the French Minister of Culture, informed the public that the recovered Degas pastel "Les Choristes"  will be given a special place in the future exhibition Degas at the Opera scheduled at the Musée d'Orsay from September 23, 2019 through January 19, 2020.



October 22, 2017

Recovered - 200 undocumented ancient objects in Grosseto, Italy

Image Credit:  Guardia di Finanza

Four antiquities collectors in Grosseto stand accused of illicit detention and possession of property belonging to the state after officers from Italy's Guardia di Finanza seized more than 200 undocumented ancient objects uncovered during asset controls in the garden of a villa.  The search and seizure warrant was issued by the Public Prosecutor of Rome.  

Some of the pieces recovered date back to the Roman imperial age and depict various inscriptions and scenes of Mithraism. 

Image Credit:  Guardia di Finanza

In addition to these, law enforcement officers seized marble heads and busts, including the one of Jupiter pictured in the header of this article, and another of Faustina Maggiore.

Image Credit:  Guardia di Finanza

Also seized was an ancient sarcophagus, unfortunately converted into a utilitarian planter, a full-body statue of a female, attic pottery, columns, and pedestals. Many are in poor condition, perhaps due to exposure to the elements. 

Image Credit:  Guardia di Finanza

As part of this investigation, Italy's finance police raided 22 residences in three regions: Lazio, Sicily, and Tuscany. Eleven suspects have been placed under investigation.  

Image Credit:  Guardia di Finanza
Image Credit:  Guardia di Finanza

October 12, 2017

Recovered: Doric, Ionic, Corinthian....Stolen


Thirteen Roman-era marble columns, two pedestals, a funerary stele, architectural capitals, amphorae and vases have reportedly been recovered by Italian authorities from INSIDE a private residence in the Santa Teresa area of Anzio, approximately 50 km from Rome. 


Given their large size, many of the objects have been temporarily transported to the Museum Villa Adele at Anzio where the larger of them remain outside the museum near its entrance.

No indications, in initial public reports, state when this seizure occurred or in whose private villa the ancient objects were initially sequestered. The large size of the artifacts, which required heavy transport vehicles to deposit them at the entrance of the museum, leave more questions unanswered than answered.   how could objects this large be stolen and transported inside a private home without raising any alarm bells along the way?









October 6, 2017

Recovered: Antiquities, historic weaponry and a church relic that likely dates to Pope Innocent XI

Image Credit:   Guardia di Finanza
Today, Italy’s Guardia di Finanza unit in Foggia announced the recovery of a large stash of antiquities, antique weaponry and religious art and relics. 

Image Credit:   Guardia di Finanza
In two separate raids between Cerignola and the provincial capital of Foggia GdF officers have recovered 350 archaeological objects including votive statues, two volute craters decorated with moulded Medusa head handles, an impressive quantity of gnathia vases, attic pottery, painted plates, pouring vessels, and ancient jewelry decorated with gold, stone and bronze elements.  

Image Credit:   Guardia di Finanza
According to the superintendence who evaluated the finds, some of the ancient objects likely plundered  from a Roman or Samnite tomb, possibly that of a soldier.

In addition to the antiquities officers recovered a canvas painting taken a few years back from the rural church of Palazzo d'Ascoli in the countryside of Ascoli Satriano, in the province of Foggia and what appears to be slipper, attached with a note proclaiming it belonged to the Blessed Pope Innocent XI (1611-1689).

Image Credit:   Guardia di Finanza
Also recovered were a group of antique firearms dating back to 1600 -1800, as well as modern weaponry. 

Image Credit:   Guardia di Finanza
Two individuals, a 48-year old from Orta Nova and a 61 year old from Cerignola have been taken into custody by the financial police of the provincial command of Foggia charged with illegal possession of weapons, stolen goods and violations of the rules on the protection of cultural heritage.  The latter individual, an attorney, has been released for the present time.