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April 12, 2012

Serbian Police Recover Cézanne's The Boy in the Red Waistcoast Stolen in 2008 from the E. G. Bührle Collection in Switzerland

Cézanne's "The Boy in
 the Red Waistcoast"/
Foundation E. G.
 Bührle Collection
by Catherine Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor-in-Chief
BBC News reported today that Serbian police recovered "Boy with a Red Waistcoat", a painting by Paul Cézanne (1839-1906) stolen in 2008 from the Foundation E. G. Bührle Collection in Zurich.

According to the BBC, police arrested three people in Belgrade and Cacak.

The blog, Eastern European Forum, has a simple English translation of the information in Sebia's daily Blic: "The operation was organized by the Service for the Fight Against Organized Crime (SBPOK) and the Organized Crime Prosecution.  The Serbian police cooperated with their colleagues from several states and the operation was prepared for several months."

Cézanne's Le Garçon au gilet rouge measures 79.5 by 64 centimeters.  Emil Bührle, a German-born industrialist who sold arms to the Nazis during World War II, purchased the oil on canvas for 400,000 Swiss Francs in 1948. It is now estimated to be worth more than $100 million.

On Sunday, February 10, 2008, "three armed men in ski masks" ("Armed robbers steal $160 million worth of art from Zurich Museum", The New York Times, February 11, 2008) entered the Zurich museum 30 minutes before closing to steal four paintings by Cézanne, Degas, Van Gogh, and Monet.

One week later, two of the paintings, Vincent van Gogh's Blossoming Chestnut Branches (1890) and Claude Monet's Poppies Near Vétheuil (1879) were "discovered in the back seat of a white sedan parked outside a psychiatric hospital" "about 500 meters from the gallery" (BBC News Online, "Stolen Paintings Found in Zurich").

Edgar Degas' Ludvovic Lepic and His Daughters (1871, oil on canvas, 65 x 81 cm) is still missing.

If you would like to read more about recovering stolen art in Serbia ....

In October 2011, former Scotland Yard Detective Richard Ellis recovered two Picasso paintings in Serbia that had been stolen from Switzerland in 2008.

Sandy Nairne, author of Art Theft and the Case of the Stolen Turners, discusses the Serbian underworld with The Independent's Mathew Bell in July 2011. More information about Nairne's book can be found on the ARCA blog here and here.

UPDATE: The report by Reuters here.

The story appears to have originated with journalist Tamara Markovic Subota of Serbia's Blic, a daily newspaper.  According to the translation by Google here, the three arrested were Serbian nationals and part of organized crime -- a fourth accomplice was arrested for trafficking in firearms.

Provenance of Cézanne's Boy with a Red Waistcoat/Le Garçon au gilet rouge (Buehrle website):

Ambroise Vollard, Paris (ca. 1895–1909) (1) ▪ Marczell de Nemes, Budapest (1909–1913) (2) ▪
Gottlieb Friedrich Reber, Langerfeld/Wuppertal, Munich, Lugano, Ascona & Lausanne (1913–1948) 
(3) ▪ Emil Bührle, Zurich (28 August 1948 until [d.] 28 November 1956) (4) ▪ Given by the heirs of 
Emil Bührle to the Foundation E.G. Bührle Collection, Zurich, no. 18 (1960).
(1) Acquired from the artist, most probably in connection with the exhibition of 1895 in the dealer's gallery, Cézanne to Picasso, Ambroise Vollard, Patron of the Avant-Garde, (exh. cat.) Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York etc. 2006–07, pp. 47 (n. 88), 284.

(2) Acquired from the above on 30 July 1909 for FF 20.000, exh. cat. as above; Catalogue des tableaux 

modernes […] composant la collection de M. Marczell de Nemes de Budapest, (sale cat.) Galerie ManziJoyant, Paris (18 June 1913), no. 90.

(3) Acquired at the above sale for FF 56.000, R. K., "Die Auktion der Sammlung M. von Nemes", in Cicerone (5) 

1913, pp. 516, 518; Peter Kropmanns, Uwe Fleckner, "Von kontinentaler Bedeutung, Gottlieb Friedrich Reber 

und seine Sammlung", in Die Moderne und ihre Sammler, Französische Kunst in deutschem Privatbesitz vom 

Kaiserreich zur Weimarer Republik, Berlin 2001, p. 352.

(4) Acquired from the above for CHF 400.000, AStEGB, Entry Book I, 14 July 1948: "Reber, Dr. G. F., Lausanne, 

Oelgem. a. Lw., Original (verpfändet), Cézanne, Paul, Le Garçon au gilet rouge, 79,5 x 64 cm, Hoch"; the 

acquisition price mentioned in AStEGB, Letter from Emil Bührle to Alois Miedl, Zurich, 27 August 1948, 
offering a painting by Cézanne, Portrait of Choquet [R.460] as a commission to Miedl.

ARCA footnote: Alois Miedl purchased part of the assets of Jacques Goudstikker after the Jewish art dealer fled Amsterdam in 1940 (you can read more in Spiegel Online "Nazi-Era Profiteering: Holland Returns Art Stolen from Jewish Collector" and here and here on the ARCA blog.