Showing posts with label stolen art database. Show all posts
Showing posts with label stolen art database. Show all posts

September 30, 2016

When opportunity has knocked, art thieves often have a preference for works of art attributed to Vincent Van Gogh


When opportunity has knocked, art thieves have often had a preference for works of art attributed to Vincent Van Gogh.   But just how many artworks by Vincent van Gogh have been stolen? 

Van Gogh, who in his lifetime only sold one painting, has long commanded substantial figures in the contemporary art world. Eight of his masterpieces are ranked among the world's 50 most expensive works of art ever sold.    

Echoing that, the wave pattern of art theft often mirrors the whimsy of the art market. Then thieves follow the path of least protection or resistance and strike at objects known to be of value in places that allow for the opportunity.

Taking a look inside ARCA's database of art crimes involving the artist Vincent Van Gogh by our count, 36 Van Gogh works of art have been stolen, 3 of them two times each, over the course of 14 separate art thefts.

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Stolen in 1937 - The Lovers: The Poet's Garden IV, 1888  is only known to the art world through an 1888 letter from Vincent Van Gogh to his brother, Theo. This artwork, likely an oil on canvas was completed the same year the letter was sent and may have been stolen by the Nazis during World War II.  The only known image of this painting is based the small sketch the artist sent to his brother along with his letter.  This work of art has never been recovered. 

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June 4, 1977 - Poppy Flowers (also known as Vase And Flowers and Vase with Viscaria) 1887 was stolen from Cairo's Mohamed Mahmoud Khalil Museum and later recovered only to then be stolen again in 2010. 

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February 17, 1975 – Van Gogh watercolour Breton Women (after Emile Bernard) also known as Les bretonnes et le pardon de pont Aven was one of 28 works of art stolen from the Galleria d'Arte Moderna in Milan, Italy. The painting was recovered in an apartment registered to an alias in Milan on April 6, 1975.  It too was stolen a second time, just one month later. See the individual theft post here.

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May 15, 1975 - Van Gogh watercolour Breton Women (after Emile Bernard) also known as Les bretonnes et le pardon de pont Aven was stolen for a second time along with 37 other Impressionist and Post Impressionist works of art from the Galleria d'Arte Moderna in Milan, Italy. This follow-up theft included many of same artworks previously taken during the February 17, 1975 theft. The Van Gogh was recovered on November 2, 1975 in what was then West Germany along with ten other stolen artworks taken during the second the Galleria d'Arte Moderna theft. See the individual theft post here.

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May 20, 1988 - Three paintings Vase with Carnations (1886) by Vincent Van Gogh, La maison du maître Adam Billaud à Nevers (The House of Master Adam Billaud at Nevers) painted in 1874 by Johan Barthold Jongkind and Bouteilles et pêches (Bottles and peaches) painted in 1890 by Paul Cézanne were stolen from the Stedelijk Museum, next door to the Van Gogh Museum on the Museumplein in Amsterdam.  All three works of art were recovered undamaged.  See the individual theft post here.

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December 12, 1988 -  Three Van Goghs worth an estimated €113 million euros were stolen from the The Kröller-Müller Museum in Otterlo about 60 miles east of Amsterdam. The stolen works of art included the second of three painted sketches titled De aardappeleters, (the potato eaters) completed in 1885, as well as two other works Four Cut Sunflowers, (also known as Overblown Sunflowers from August-September), 1887 and Loom with Weaver,1884.  All three paintings were recovered but had sustained damages.  See the individual theft post here.

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June 28, 1990 - Three early Van Gogh paintings, Digging farmer, 1885-87, Brabant Peasant, seated, 1884-1885, and Wheels of the Water Mill in Gennep were stolen from the Het Noordbrabants Museum in Den Bosch, Netherlands. The Digging Farmer was found in 1991 in a bank safe in Belgium. The other two paintings were returned in 1994 via negotiations with a tertiary party.  See the individual theft post here.

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April 14, 1991 - 20 paintings by Vincent van Gogh were stolen from the Vincent Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. All 20 paintings were recovered within 24 hours. Three of the 20 paintings were severely damaged. Four perpetrators, including one museum guard and a former employee of the museum's security firm were arrested in July 1991.  See the entire list of artworks and the individual theft post here.

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May 19, 1998  -  The prestigious Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Moderna in Rome was robbed by three armed with guns shortly before closing time. The criminals stole two paintings by Vincent Van Gogh's L'Arlésienne, 1889 and Le Jardinier, October 1889 and Paul Cézanne's Cabanon de Jourdan, 1906.  On July 5, 1998 eight suspects were arrested and all three paintings were recovered.   See the individual theft post here.

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May 13-15, 1999 - the Vincent van Gogh painting, The Willow, was stolen from the headquarters of F. van Lanschot Bankiers NV in Den Bosch. The painting was recovered in 2006 following an undercover sting operation where two suspects were arrested. See the individual theft post here.

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December 7, 2002 - Two thieves using a ladder break in to the Van Gogh Museum making off with two paintings, View of the Sea at Scheveningen (1882) and Congregation Leaving the Reformed Church in Nuenen (1884). Following an intensive international investigation, two Dutchmen, Octave Durham, A.K.A. "The Monkey" and Henk Bieslijn were arrested in 2004 for their respective roles in the burglary. Durham received a prison sentence of 4.5 years. Henk Bieslijn was sentenced to 4 years incarceration. Each of the culprits were ordered to pay the Van Gogh Museum €350,000 in damages and both denied responsibility.  The paintings remianed lost for 14 years only to resurface in late September 2016 in the Castellammare di Stabia area in the Bay of Naples. During a blitz by Italian law enforcement on members of an illicit cocaine trafficking ring operated by  a splinter group of the Naples Camorra, the paintings were recovered.  See individual theft post here. 

April 26, 2003 - Three paintings including Van Gogh's The Fortification of Paris with Houses, Picasso's Poverty and Gauguin's Tahitian Landscape were taken from The Whitworth Art Gallery at The University of Manchester. The works of art were found the next day crammed into a tube behind a public toilet in Manchester's Whitworth Park. See the individual theft post here.

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February 10, 2008 - Four paintings were stolen at gunpoint from a private Zürich gallery run by the Foundation E.G. Bührle in Switzerland. The paintings were Blossoming Chestnut Branches by Vincent Van Gogh, Paul Cezanne's Boy in the Red Waistcoat, Claude Monet's Poppies near Vétheuil and Edgar Degas' Count Lepic and His Daughters.  The Van Gogh and Monet were recovered on February 18, 2008.  The Degas was recovered in April 2012 and Cezanne's Boy in the Red Waistcoat was recovered April 12, 2012.  See the individual theft post here.

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August 21, 2010Poppy Flowers (also known as Vase And Flowers and Vase with Viscaria) 1887 was stolen for the second time from the Mohamed Mahmoud Khalil Museum in Cairo.  Its current whereabouts are still unknown. 

By Lynda Albertson

August 8, 2013

Christopher Marinello on "Art Recovery: Negotiating with Criminals, Handlers, and Good Faith Purchasers" (The Journal of Art Crime, Spring 2013)

Christopher Marinello writes on "Art Recovery: Negotiating with Criminals, Handlers, and Good Faith Purchasers" in the Spring 2013 issue of The Journal of Art Crime.
There was a good deal of press coverage surrounding a recent art recovery I handled for the Museum of Modern Art in Sweden. A UK-based dealer with significant connections to the Polish art market searched Matisse's Le Jardin against the Art Loss Register database. The results showed that the work had been stolen 26 years earlier, from the Moderna Museet in Stockholm, Sweden and reported to the local police, INTERPOL, and the IFAR (later the ALR) database. 
Following confirmation of the match, my role was to ensure that the painting made its way into the UK, where I would secure the assistance of law enforcement in case a seizure of the work became necessary. I then proceeded to negotiate (with police approval) for the return of the work. 
Fortunately, I encountered a very cooperative dealer who was willing to listen to my analysis of the laws of Poland, the UK, and Sweden. (I think I might have bored him into submission). We engaged in considerable debate about what options he had available to him, knowing that he now held a stolen painting. Once obtaining his release, the painting was placed in a safe for eventual return to the museum in Stockholm. 
Many of the reporters covering the story wanted to know how much money was paid to the dealer, to obtain the release of this $1,000,000 painting. The follow-up question was just as direct, in wanting to know how much money the ALR was going to make from the recovery. The answer to both questions was, and is, zero.
Mr. Marinello's article is continued in the ninth issue of The Journal of Art Crime, edited by Noah Charney and published by ARCA (available electronically and in print via subscription and Amazon.com). The Associate Editor is Marc Balcells (ARCA '11), Graduate Teaching Fellow, Department of Political Science, John Jay College of Criminal Justice -- The City University of New York.

February 6, 2013

Belgian Police Searching for Snuffboxes Stolen from Residence before New Year's Eve

INTERPOL has issued an alert that Belgian Police are searching for 18th and 19th century snuffboxes and boxes stolen December 30 from a Namur residence in the south of Belgium (INTERPOL added 56 stolen items to its  Works of Art Database).

One of the snuffboxes (dated 1795-1797), pictured to the left, is made of gold, diamonds, and translucent blue enamel.  On the lid is a portrait of Napoleon painted on ivory.  It is signed 'AUGUSTIN'.  The jeweller is identified as Adrien Jean Maximilien Vachette, the French goldsmith.  The snuffbox is engraved with "No. 35.E", the same number handwritten on a sticker inside the case that bears the coat of arms of the emperor.

In September 1979, the Smithsonian Institute reported the theft of a $125,000 gold snuffbox, a gift from the Russian Empress Catherine the Great to one of her lovers, Prince Gregory Orlov.  Three years later, the FBI revealed that the gold box had been stripped of its diamonds and melted down.

June 11, 2012

Anniversary of Gustave Courbet's Birth and the Number of Stolen Courbet Paintings Reported by Interpol

Courbet's Coastal Landscape in North of France/Interpol
by Catherine Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor-in-Chief

Huffington Post contributor Priscilla Frank saluted Gustave Courbet's birth on June 10, 1819 with a tribute to the artist and a selection of ten of her favorite paintings.

On the ARCA blog, we've covered a Courbet painting stolen from a gallery in Swansea, Wales in 1957; a landscape stolen from the Montreal Museum of Fine Art in 1972; and a Nazi-era looted painting of a dead deer.

Interpol's Stolen Art Database lists 10 works by Courbet that remain stolen (identified by their Interpol titles in English): Coast Scene with Cliffs and Breaking Waves (Swansea, 1957); Self-Portrait (Italy, 1971); Landscape with Rocks and Steam (Canada, 1972); Head of a Young (France, 1981); Standing Man (Switzerland, 1984); La Mer (Switzerland, 1992); Stream of Consolation (France, 1997); Landscape (Paraguay, 2002); Coastal Landscape In North of France (Switzerland, 2008); and   Shot Deer (Slovenia, 2010).


May 10, 2012

More confirmation of old news? Pietro Grasso, head of the anti-Mafia crime unit, confirms in May that Caravaggio's Nativity of Palermo eaten by pigs

Caravaggio's Nativity from Palermo
In 2009, Judith Harris wrote for the ARCA blog a post titled "Breaking News on the Stolen Caravaggio Nativity" that a member of the mafia told law officials that the painting was likely destroyed in the 1980s.  But just last week, Journalist Noel Grima for The Malta Independent online reported May 6th that Pietro Grasso, the head of the anti-Mafia crime unit, confirmed again that legal authorities believe that the Caravaggio of Palermo has been eaten by pigs.

Possibly no one wants to believe that the painting has been so carelessly destroyed; the FBI and Interpol still list the painting as stolen and missing.

Grima repeats a formerly published article in eosarte.eu "Arezzo, il Procuratore antimafia Pietro Grasso: il Caravaggio di Palermo mangiato dai porci" dated April 22 reports that Grasso confirmed during a press conference earlier rumors that the Nativity paintings with Saints Lorenzo and Francis of Assisi has likely been tossed around by criminals and ended up in a pig sty and eaten by rats and pigs over the years.
"Ci verrobbe tempo perché è una lunga storia ... ma riteniamo che il quadro sia finito nelle mani di ignoranti che l'hanno hascosto in una porcilaia, dove magari porci poi se lo sono mangiato."
Grima translates:
The anti-Mafia's head's reply was a chilling one: "We need more time because the situation is rather complicated, but we believe the painting ended up in the hands of ignorant people who hit it in a pigsty where the pigs ate it."
The Malta connected dates back to the 17th century when the artist was imprisoned there.  Caravaggio himself lead a tumultuous lifestyle documented in Italian police records.

Grima claims that a painting similar to The "Nativity" by Caravaggio would be worth $200 million while the FBI website estimates the value at $20 million.

In October 1969, two thieves entered the Oratory of San Lorenzo in Palmero, Italy, according to the FBI, and removed Caravaggio's Nativity with San Lorenzo and San Francesco from its frame.

Interpol still reports the painting as missing on its stolen art database and places the date of the theft as October 18, 1969.  Interpol lists nine other works by Caravaggio (or from the school of or in the manner of) as stolen: Portrait of an Old Woman, Montepulciano, Italy, December 22, 1970; Doubting Tomas from Frascati, Italy, March 15, 1974; Beggars and Invalids (copper painting) from San Sebastian, Spain, April 1978; Man with a Pendant Earring, The Draughts Players, and Venice Feeding the Cupids, from La Storta, Italy, December 1, 1979; Saint Gerolamo, from Dozza, Italy, June 4, 1985; Two Men Playing Dice, from Lessona, Italy, July 27, 1986; and Los Jugadores from Santa Fe de Bogata, Colombia, October 24, 1999.

April 27, 2012

Interpol's Stolen Art Database Reports Eight Cézanne Paintings Missing

by Catherine Sezgin, ARCA Blog

Interpol is the international police organization established in 1923.  In 2009, its database for Stolen Art was made available to the public.  It takes about one to two weeks to obtain permission and a password to access the lists of recovered and stolen art objects.

Earlier this month, police in Serbia recovered a painting by Paul Cézanne that had been stolen from an Impressionist museum in Zurich in 2008.  Interpol lists eight stolen artworks created by Cézanne.


Auvers sur Oise
Period: 1889-18892
Measurements: 46 cm x 55 cm
Stolen from Oxford, United Kingdom, on January 1, 2000.


La Montagne Sante Victoire
Period: Circa 1865
Measurements; 33 cm x 49 cm.
Stolen from Le Pecq, France, on March 27, 2008.



Peches sur un plat
Period: 1872-1877
Measurements: 23 cm x 30.50 cm
Stolen from Argentina, Buenos Aires, on December 26, 1980.

Still Life
Measurements: 49 cm x 64.20 cm
Stolen from Oberageri, Switzerland, on April 25, 1996.



Paysage au Lac
Period: 1896








Sentier parmi les roches
Period: between 1899 and 1902






Vue dans un jardin (watercolour)
Stolen from France on December 8, 2003.








Human Face

Stolen from France on December 8, 2003.  This watercolour is painted on the reverse side of another painting, Vue dans un jardin.

September 16, 2011

Art Loss Register Theft Alert: Renoir Stolen from Private Collection in Houston

Pierre-August Renoir's
 Madeleine Leaning on Her Elbow
 with Flowers in Her Hair
 (
1918, 50.17 x 41.28 cm)
September 16 - The Art Loss Register has issued a theft alert for a painting by Renoir stolen from a private collection in Houston on September 8. The alert can be found here and reads as follows:
Pierre-August Renoir's Madeleine Leaning on Her Elbow with Flowers in Her Hair (1918, 50.17 x 41.28 cm) was stolen from a private collection during the evening of the 8th of September 2011 as reported to the Houston Police Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. 
A reward of up to $25,000 is being offered for information leading to the return of the painting. Anyone with information regarding this item please contact: 
Christopher A. Marinello, Executive & General Counsel, The Art Loss Register, 1st Floor, 63-66 Hatton Garden, London, EC1N 8LE, United Kingdom, Tel: +44 (0) 207 841 5780, email: chris.marinello@artloss.com 
or 
Robert Wittman, Robert Whittman, Inc., PO Box 653, Chester Heights, PA 19017, USA Tel: 610-361-8929, email: info@robertwittmaninc.com.

ARCA blog contacted Mr. Marinello and asked for more information. "Unfortunately, we cannot comment on the theft due to the fact that it is a pending investigation by the Houston PD and Federal Bureau of Investigation," Mr. Marinello responded in an email. "The Art Loss Register has 259 stolen Renoirs in its database of stolen, missing, and looted artwork. We are hopeful that the publicity given to this horrific crime will produce some leads that will assist with the recovery of this painting."

FLORIDA MAN ARRESTED ON CHARGES OF SELLING STOLEN ART AND SELLING FORGED PAINTINGS FOR MILLIONS OF DOLLARS

Mathew Taylor (LAPD Art Theft Detail)
Press Release from the US Attorney's Office for Central District of California

by Thom Mrozek, Public Affairs Officer

LOS ANGELES – A Florida man was arrested this morning pursuant to a federal indictment that alleges he sold paintings stolen from a Los Angeles art gallery, and that he had sold forged artworks to a collector with false claims that they had been painted by esteemed artists.

Matthew Taylor, 43, of Vero Beach, Florida, was arrested without incident this morning by special agents with the FBI. Taylor, who formerly worked as an art dealer, is expected to make his initial court appearance this afternoon in United States District Court in Fort Pierce, Florida.

A federal grand jury in Los Angeles indicted Taylor last week on seven felony charges related to art theft and a long-running fraud that targeted a Los Angeles art collector.

The indictment charges Taylor with defrauding the art collector victim out of millions of dollars by selling him forged art works. Taylor allegedly sold the collector more than 100 paintings – including paintings that he falsely claimed were by artists such as Claude Monet, Vincent van Gogh, Jackson Pollock, and Mark Rothko – for a total of more than $2 million. The indictment alleges that Taylor altered paintings from unknown artists to make them appear to be the products of famous artists, and then sold the bogus artwork to the victim at prices exponentially higher than their actual worth.

To conceal the true nature of the paintings, Taylor allegedly put forged on the paintings and painted over or otherwise concealed signatures from the actual artists. The indictment also alleges that Taylor created and put onto the paintings fake labels which falsely represented that the artworks were once part of prestigious art collections at famous museums, including those of the Museum of Modern Art in the New York and the Guggenheim Museum.

Stolen: "Park Scene, Paris"
$20,000 Lucien Frank painting 
Regarding the alleged art heists, the indictment accuses Taylor of stealing a Granville Redmond painting called “Seascape at Twilight” from a gallery in Los Angeles. Taylor later sold that painting to a different gallery for $85,000, falsely claiming that his mother had owned it for several years. The indictment also alleges that Taylor stole a separate artwork – a painting by Lucien Frank titled “Park Scene, Paris” – from the same gallery in Los Angeles. Taylor was seen several years later in possession of the stolen Lucien Frank painting at a gallery in Vero Beach.

The indictment further alleges that Taylor laundered and transferred across state lines some of the proceeds from his fraud on the collector victim – specifically, $105,000 that Taylor had taken from the victim by selling him four forged paintings in September 2006.

An indictment contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed to be innocent until proven guilty in court.

The indictment charges Taylor with three counts of wire fraud, two counts of money laundering, one count of interstate transportation of stolen property and one count of possession of stolen property. The mail fraud charges each carry a statutory maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison, and the remaining counts each carry a statutory maximum sentence of 10 years. Therefore, if he is convicted of all seven counts in the indictment, Taylor faces a maximum possible sentence of 100 years in federal prison.

Based on evidence collected throughout this case, investigators believe there are additional victims of art fraud related to Taylor’s activities. Individuals who purchased art from Taylor and believe they may have been defrauded should contact the Federal Bureau of Investigation in Los Angeles at (310) 477-6565 or the Los Angeles Police Department’s Art Theft Detail at (213) 486-6940.

The ongoing investigation into Taylor is being conducted by the FBI’s Art Crime Team, the Los Angeles Police Department’s Art Theft Detail, and IRS - Criminal Investigation.

You may read more about this case on the LAPD Art Theft Detail website.

More information about the $20,000 Lucien Frank painting that is still outstanding may be found here.

August 2, 2011

Michelle D’Ippolito on “Discrepancies in Data: The Role of Museums in Recovering Stolen Works of Art”

By Mark Durney, Founder of Art Theft Central

Aspiring art crime researcher, Michelle D’Ippolito, who currently is completing her undergraduate degree at the University of Maryland at College Park, discussed the role museums play in reporting and recovering stolen art. Many museums are reluctant to report art thefts due to their “concern for their public image and a persistent lack of funding.” According to D’Ippolito, the public’s opinion of a museum greatly affects its ability to attract visitors and donations, which in turn impacts its likelihood of receiving government grants. Unfortunately, in the event of a theft, the media frequently focuses its headlines on museums’ security shortcomings rather than on the possible factors that may have contributed to its loss. For example, after it was reported that 1,800 historic artifacts were missing from Pennsylvania’s state collections, the media published headlines, such as “PA. Auditor Says State Has Lost Treasure Trove of Artifacts” and “Audit: Pennsylvania museums’ artifacts ‘likely lost forever.’”

Alternatively, the media could have examined how the Pennsylvania State Historical and Museum Commission’s recent budget cuts and staff reductions may have contributed to its ability to accurately account for its collections. Funding is critical to a museum’s basic operations and its effort to preserve and protect cultural heritage. For example, it enables a museum to purchase current collections management software, which streamlines the inventory process, and it provides financing for the specialized training of museum personnel.

D’Ippolito continued her panel lecture with a discussion of the variety of national, international, and private stolen art databases available to art theft victims. While such databases are helpful to ensuring a quicker recovery of stolen art, their true potential has not yet been realized. Many countries do not consistently report museum theft due to their inability to register accurate statistics. According to D’Ippolito, this element coupled with the fact that many museums are reluctant to report theft has given rise to a situation that has little effect on deterrence.

In conclusion, D’Ippolito offered a few tactics in order to increase the reporting and recovery of stolen art. She identified eliminating discrepancies in the information required to report a theft; interfacing the current databases; creating a database related to the objects recovered with details of the investigation; and increasing museums’ participation in reporting theft.

January 26, 2011

Glasgow Police Recover A Corot and Two Other Paintings Stolen from Glasgow Museums but not Reported to Interpol's Stolen Art Database



by Catherine Schofield Sezgin

The Herald in Scotland reported today that police have recovered a painting by French artist Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot and two other works (a landscape by the Scottish Post-Impressionist painter Samuel Peploe and another work by the Italian Renaissance painter Federico Barocci) that were "linked" to thefts of art from museums in Scotland in the 1990s.

A curator recognized Wooded Landscape with Figures by Corot in an auction catalogue last November, The Herald reported in "Exclusive: Police recover stolen art".

This Corot painting was not listed on Interpol's Stolen Art Database as one of the 16 Corot paintings reported stolen between 1972 and 2008 from Canada, Italy, France, the Czech Republic, Germany, and Slovenia. The retrieved Corot landscape was once part of the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum which features French Impressionists and 17th-century Dutch and Flemish Paintings. The Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in Glasgow was closed for renovation from 2003 to 2006.

The article speculates that a member of the Glasgow City Council may have been involved in selling art from the Glasgow Museums due to the poor inventory controls. The investigation continues.

In addition to theft, Corot's art is one of the "most faked," according to Freemanart Consultancy which advertises itself as an expert in the fine art of authentication. Corot himself signed many faked and copied works by either his pupils or those of his artistic friends who needed money, according to Freemanart Consultancy.

Photos: Young Girl Leaning on Left Elbow (top) and Girl Musing by a Fountain (bottom), as titled in Interpol's Stolen Art Database, were two paintings by Corot taken from the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts in 1972 and remain missing.

October 18, 2010

Cultural Plunder by the Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg: Database of Art Objects at the Jeu de Paume

By Catherine Sezgin

During World War II in Nazi-occupied Paris, more than 20,000 art objects were systematically looted from over 200 Jewish families, and either sold or transported to Germany. Seventy years later, at least half of the objects have not yet been restituted to the owners, or their heirs, in accordance with the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany. The Claims Conference and the United State Holocaust Museum have just released an online database of art objects that were processed from 1940 to 1944 in the center of Paris at the Jeu de Paume on the Place de la Concorde.

As the Nazis’s special task force the Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg (ERR) confiscated paintings, sculptures, objets d’art, and antiquities from private collections. More than sixty people at the Jeu de Paume inventoried, photographed, and arranged for the transportation of the artworks on 120 railways coaches from France to Germany. Every looted painting was registered and stamped by the Nazis. The French national, Rose Volland, a volunteer at the museum before the war who observed the operation, kept a secret account of everything the Nazis stole and where they planned to deliver the art. Using secret couriers during the war, she notified the Allied Forces of the Nazis’s activities. After the defeat of the Third Reich, much of the stolen art was found and returned to their countries of origin to be reunited with their owners. However, many families, who were devastated by the Holocaust, did not have the records to identify or claim artworks.

Now the Claims Conference, working with the technical support of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, has transferred the information from the index cards, or inventory lists, to a database “Cultural Plunder by the Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg: Database of Art Objects at the Jeu de Paume.”

“Decades after the greatest mass theft in history, families robbed of their prize artworks can now search this list to help them locate long-lost treasures,” said Julius Berman, Claims Conference Chairman [in a press release]. “It is now the responsibility of museums, art dealers, and auction houses to check their holdings against these records to determine whether they might be in possession of art stolen from Holocaust victims. Organizing Nazi art-looting records is an important step in righting a historical wrong. It is not too late to restore art that should have been passed down within Jewish families instead of decorating Nazi homes or stored at Nazi sites.”

The public can access the newly released online database on Nazi looted art from Paris through the URL: www.errproject.org/jeudepaume. Users can search by collection, owner, artist, and type of art object (paintings, works on paper, sculpture, decorative arts or antiquities). Information in the database will be regularly updated, according to Project Director Marc Masurovsky, a consultant to the Holocaust Memorial Museum. Masurovsky used some ARCA graduates to assist in the inputting of the datasets.

Masurovsky, the co-founder of the Holocaust Art Restitution Project (HARP), which began in 1997, spoke about documenting and recovering Nazi looted art last March at the National Museum of Crime & Punishment for ARCA’s exhibit “The Dark Arts: Thieves, Forgers and Tomb Raiders” in Washington, DC this past February. He also spoke about “Nazi Plunder of Looted Cultural Property and Its Impact on Today’s Art Market” at ARCA’s International Art Crime Conference in July in Amelia, Italy.

In the future, users will be able to find individual datasets through Google by typing specific artists’ names in the search box, Masurovsky wrote in an email. Each object in the database is described based on the information from the card that the Nazis filled out and includes any images that may have been taken. The database also provides information about whether or not the artwork was returned to France and if it was restituted to its owner. For example, Arthur Levy’s collection of 125 artworks has not been returned to the family. Database users can even search by Artist. For example, a landscape by Vincent van Gogh from the collection of Alfred Weinberger in Paris was photographed and measured (60 x 100 cm) when it was brought to the Jeu de Paume in 1941 on December 4.

The Jeu de Paume as a looted art center was of particular interest to the German army’s second-in-command, Hermann Göring who spent two days there during the war looking at the art. He then asked that photographs of the art be sent to Hitler for him to make selections from the spoils of war. Unfortunately, in July 1942, the Jeu de Paume collection center was overburdened. Paintings declared unfit for German collections and too degenerate to be sold on the art market were burned in the garden. Rose Volland was said to have cried at the destruction of works by Pablo Picasso, Paul Klee, Max Ernst, Jean Míro and Salvador Dali.

August 24, 2010

ARCA featured in La Repubblica

ARCA was featured in an article in Italy's leading national newspaper, La Repubblica, on 23 August 2010. The article mentioned some of the statistics on art crime in Italy kept by the Carabinieri Division for the Protection of Cultural Heritage. The Carabinieri TPC, as it is known, is the world's oldest and strongest art police unit, having been founded in 1969, and with a 300-plus strong force. They run the world's largest database on stolen art, containing over 3 million items, and have by far the best recovery rate of any of the world's police. In 2009 alone the Carabinieri TPC reported 13,219 artworks stolen in Italy (a significant decrease from the approximately 30,000 objects reported stolen as recently as 2001). In 2009 the TPC questioned 1220 people suspected of involvement in art crime, arrested 45, and recovered an astounding 19,043 stolen artworks.

The Carabinieri TPC were honored with the 2009 ARCA Award for Lifetime Achievement in Defense of Art, and were featured in a BBC Radio Four documentary which ran earlier this summer. In that documentary the Carabinieri reiterated that art crime is linked to the drug and arms trades and even terrorism, and highlighted the fact that most art crime involves organized crime, and therefore is something to be taken very seriously indeed.