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February 13, 2023

Burglars strike the Princessehof Ceramics Museum in Leeuwarden

According to the Dutch Politie, in today's early morning hours, around 3:45 am an alarm sounded which alerted them that, a burglar or burglars robbed the The Princessehof Ceramics Museum in the city of Leeuwarden in the Netherlands.

This is the second of two attempted break-ins in 2023, the first being unsuccessful, two weeks ago, on February 1 before 6 am. 

The perpetrator or perpetrators is today's theft are believed to have accessed the galleries inside the museum after entering via the roof of the building.

The Princessehof Ceramics Museum is known for its extraordinary ceramics, with objects representative of European, Middle Eastern and Asian ceramics making up parts of the collection. 

According to the museum a total of eleven objects from a Chinese ceramics installation were stolen during the burglary, seven of which were destroyed with abandoned or droped during the escape.  Dutch news sites are reporting that the  abandoned material, presumed to have been removed from the museum, was found in the Doelestraat, close to the museum. 

This is not the first incident of Chinese material being brazenly stolen from museums across Europe and the UK. The first recorded incident in a spate of thefts occurred in Stockholm at the Chinese Pavilion on the grounds of Drottningholm Palace in 2010.  Despite police arriving on the scene in just 14 minutes, thieves still managed a quick smash and grab, escaping with Chinese imperial seals and vases.   

Next, that same year, thieves hit in Bergen, Norway, where, like in today's theft, the burglars entered the building from the roof, with the intruders rappelling down from a glass ceiling into the KODE Museum.  In that theft, the burglars made off with 56 objects from the museum's China Collection. 

Crossing over the pond, another incident occurred at the Oriental Museum at Durham University, in 2012 when an 18th-century jade bowl and a Dehua porcelain figurine, worth an estimated £2m were stolen in a well-planned heist that investigators believe to have been a theft to order.   That same month burglars struck again, stealing a dozen objects from the Fitzwilliam Museum worth an estimated £15m, including artefacts from the Ming and Qing dynasties, a jade 16th century carved buffalo, a carved horse from the 17th century, a green and brown jade carved elephant.

Then the KODE Museum was struck again in 2013, where despite a heightened awareness to the recurring thefts of Chinese material, thieves still managed to grab another 22 objects in porcelain, jade, bronze and paper from the Norwegian museum, adding further insult to injury.  In 2015, this time striking in France, in a lightening raid that lasted just seven minutes,  thieves stole 22 objects from the Chinese Museum that houses works once belonging to Empress Eugenie, wife of Napoleon III at the Château de Fontainebleau.  In that theft, thieves made off with a Chimera in cloisonné enamel, a mandala made of coral, gold, and turquoise, porcelain vases, and other rare items.  In 2018 another 40 Chinese artefacts, including ceramics, jade, and gold pieces, were stolen from the Museum of East Asian Art in Bath, in southwest England.

For now, the Princessehof Ceramics Museum in the Netherlands will remain closed until February 21st to allow the police to conduct their investigation.  Eye witnesses or those with camera footage from the area of ​​the Grote Kerkstraat are asked to contact the local law enforcement authorities.