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February 24, 2011

ARTINFO reports Security Guard Stole Paintings from Corsican Museum for Ransom -- Only to Lose Them to Other Thieves

by Catherine Schofield Sezgin

ARTINFO France reported today (Feb. 23) in an article, "Desperate Museum Guard Holds Renaissance Masterpieces For Ransom, Only to Have Them Stolen From His Car," that a security guard from Corsica's Fine Arts Museum in the Palais Fesch stole four paintings, submitted his ransom demand for housing through a local television station, and when he led police to his car, discovered that the window had been smashed and that the four paintings had been stolen from his car.

The security guard is a divorced father without a criminal record who was facing eviction from his apartment. ARTINFO reports:
Mocellini had served as a security guard some 20 years at Ajaccio's Fine Arts Museum, an institution known to have the second-largest collection of Italian paintings in France, surpassed only by the Louvre. When he finished his shift on Saturday morning, he absconded with one French painting and three Italian Renaissance works from the famed collection: Poussin's "King Midas at the source of the Pactole River," Bellini's "Virgin and Child," Mariotto di Nardo's "Pentecost," and an anonymous Umbrian artist's "Virgin and Child."
The Palais Fesch musée des beaux-arts, which reopened in June after a two-year 7 million euro renovation, houses one of France's most important art collections, second to the Louvre in Italian paintings. The four paintings, like most of the collection, were once in the Rome collection of Cardinal Joseph Fesch, one of the most important art collectors of his generation (1763-1839) and a Bonaparte supporter. During Fesch's lifetime, he owned 16,000 paintings, mostly Italian Renaissance paintings, and donated many works to his native city of Adjaccio upon his death.

Unfortunately, each of the stolen works was the museum's sole representation of that artist at the Adjaccio museum. Nicholas Poussin's "King Midas at the Source of the Pactole River" is a 17th century French oil on canvas measuring 58 x 82 centimeters; Giovanni Bellini's "Virgin and Child" is a 15th century tempura on wood measuring 65 x 46,5 centimeters; Mariotto di Nardo's "Pentecost" is a 15th century tempera on wood measuring 47 x 28 centimeters; the "Virgin and the Infant in the glory of the seraphins" by a 16th century Umbrian painter is a tempera on wood measuring 53 x 34 centimeters.

Photos: Clockwise: Poussin's "Midas"; Anonymous Umbrian Painter's "Virgin and the Infants in the glory of the seraphins"; Bellini's "Virgin and Child"; and Mariotto di Nardo's "Pentecost"; lower right is the Fresch Palais in Adjaccio, Corsica.