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September 19, 2012

Private insurer offers up to $50,000 reward for information leading to the return of a Renoir painting stolen from a Texas residence last year; FBI adds "Madeleine Leaning on Her Elbow with Flowers in Her Hair" to Top 10 Art Crimes

Today the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) issued a press release adding a stolen Renoir painting, "Madeleine Leaning on Her Elbow with Flowers in Her Hair", to its list of Top 10 Art Crimes and advertising a reward for up to $50,000 to be paid by a private insurer for information leading to the picture's recovery. The 1918 painting by Pierre-Auguste Renoir was stolen on September 8, 2011. According to the FBI:
The homeowner was watching television when she heard a loud noise downstairs. When she went to investigate, she was confronted by an armed man in a ski mask. ...The painting was taken with its frame intact from the stairwell where it hung. The masked robber, who forced entry through the back door of the home, is described as a white male, 18 to 26 years old, who weighs about 160 pounds and is approximately 5’-10” tall. He was armed with a large-caliber, semi-automatic handgun.
According to Anita Hassan reporting for The Houston Chronicle, the thief entered the home and demanded money and diamonds but the owner, protective of her sleeping son upstairs, offered her painting by Renoir as the most valuable monetary asset available.

The original reward was announced at $25,000, according to information released by The Art Loss Register who reported that the Houston Police Department and the FBI were working on the investigation. The FBI estimates that the stolen painting is worth $1 million. The private insurer is not identified. The painting's image has also been included in databases for The Art Loss Register (accessible for a fee) and Interpol (free access to registered users).

Stolen Renoir paintings

In addition to the Texan "Madeleine Leaning on Her Elbow", Interpol's Stolen Art Database identifies 18 Renoir paintings as stolen and still missing since 1938.  The paintings have been stolen from places in Switzerland, France, Argentina, Germany, the United States, Japan, and Italy.

In mid-June 2012, $21 million worth of artwork, including a painting by Renoir and ten drawings by Picasso, were stolen from a businessman in a violent assault in Olomouc in the Czech Republic.

Recovered Renoir paintings

A Renoir stolen from Rome in 1984 re-appeared in Venice in 2009 just months after another Renoir painting stolen from Milan 33 years earlier had also been recovered.

An international law enforcement operation recovered Renoir's "Young Parisian" in Los Angeles and Rembrandt's "Self Portrait" in Copenhagen in 2005.  The two pictures, along with another Renoir, were stolen from the Swedish National Museum in Stockholm in 2000 when thieves used machine guns, tire spikes, and diversionary car bombs to penetrate the museum's security. Stockholm County Police had recovered Renoir's "Conversation" four years earlier in July of 2001.