Showing posts with label Henri Matisse. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Henri Matisse. Show all posts

November 18, 2018

Recovered? Anonymous tip may have lead to Picasso's "Tete d'Arlequin" stolen from the Kunsthal in Rotterdam in 2012.


On October 16, 2012 Dutch police confirmed that seven paintings had been stolen, shortly after 3 a.m. local time, from the Kunsthal museum in Rotterdam.  The paintings which were taken, Pablo Picasso's Tete d'Arlequin, Henri Matisse's La Liseuse en Blanc et Jaune and Waterloo Bridge, London,  Claude Monet's Charing Cross, London, Paul Gauguin's Femme Devant une Fenêtre Ouverte, dite La Fiancée, Jacob Meyer de Haan's Autoportrait, and Lucian Freud's Woman with Eyes Closed were estimated to be worth millions.  

The stolen art works were part of the museum's Avant Guard Exhibition, which highlighted material on loan from the private Triton Foundation collection. Built over twenty years, by Rotterdam oil and shipping magnate Willem Cordia and his wife Marijke van der Laan, the exhibition, was set to run from 7 October 2012 until 20 January 2013, and was the first time any artwork from the Triton Collection had been exhibited publicly. 

The Triton body of artworks is made up of approximately 250 paintings, drawings and pieces of sculpture belonging to art movements from 1870 through 1970.  The collection includes works by many by the most influential 19th and 20th century artists in the tradition of Impressionism, Expressionism, and Analytical Cubism.  At the time of the theft, the collection was reputed to be one of the 200 most important private collections in the world.  

Shortly after the theft, and as the law enforcement investigation progressed, formal charges were brought against a group of suspects of Romanian origin.   Charges against Radu Dogaru, the ringleader who was found to have orchestrated the heist, his mother, Olga, Eugen Darie and Adrian Procop were all eventually brought.  Around the globe, their trials were closely watched in the hopes that the defendants might shed some light during their testimony on whether or not the seven paintings and drawings remained safe.  Early in the investigation Mr. Dogaru’s mother claimed to have torched the artworks, in order to dispose of the evidence which could be used against her son.

Despite recanting her statement later, experts from Romania's Muzeul Naţional de Istorie a României (National History Museum of Romania - MNIR) provided testimony that seemingly validated Olga Dogaru's grim confession.  Ash and remains analyzed from a stove in her home in the village of Carcaliu in eastern Romania included nails from frames used before the end of the 19th century.  Yet, as pointed out by Maria Vasii, one of the attorney's for the defendants, the only painting with canvas tacks was the one by Lucian Freud.  As that artwork was completed in the year 2000, the nails would not have been made of copper and could not possibly have come from a 19th or 20th century production. Vasii also pointed out that the other paintings which were stolen were canvas glued onto cardboard and had no nails whatsoever. 

Despite the questions remaining as to what had actually become of the stolen artworks, Radu Dogaru and Eugen Darie, pled guilty for their roles in the theft on October 22, 2013. As a result of their confessions, the Third District Court of Romania sentenced Dogaru to 6 years and Eugen Darie to 5 years and 4 months (following sentencing appeals) for their involvement in the crime and for membership in a criminal organisation. 

Alexandru Mihai Bitu also received a sentence - two years for handling stolen goods. Adrian Procop, arrested in Manchester, England and extradited to Bucharest, was sentenced to prison for four years and 10 months for the formation of an organized criminal group and to four years and eight months for theft. Some of his prison time was reduced as the punishments were slated to run concurrently.  

Petre Condrat, involved in trying to find a buyer for the Matisse and the Gauguin, was fined 45,000 Romanian lei, the equivalent of approximately €9642. Dogaru's mother, Olga, was sentenced to two years in prison, convicted of aiding criminal behavior.

Interestingly, during Radu Dogaru's trial he gave a deposition that contradicted his mother's earlier confession to burning the paintings and told the court that his mother made false statements about incinerating the art works under pressure by interrogators. It was believed at the time that Radu may have been motivated by the hope that, along with her recanted testimony, his testimony might help his mother avoid a prison sentence.  

Now, six years later, an anonymous letter has been received by a Dutch writer of Romanian origin, Mira Feticu, the contents of which reportedly stated where one of the seven stolen works of art might be found.

But has the stolen Picasso really been spared the fiery furnace? 

Painted the year before the artist's death, Picasso's Head of a Harlequin (1971) is an art work done in pen and brush in black ink, colored pencil and pastel on thick brown wove paper.  It measures 38 x 29 cm and is "signed and dated in the lower right corner "Picasso/12.1./71". It was purchased by the Triton Foundation in 2009.

Image Credit: Facebook user Mira Feticu
Mira Feticu has told reporters that the letter was sent to her at her Hague address because she wrote a book in 2015 about the Kunsthal theft which was also translated into Romanian.  Following the indications spelled out in a few short sentences of Romanian, Feticu and Frank Westerman have stated that they used the letter to guide them to Tulcea County, Romania.  There, they report they were able to identify the spot underneath a tree where the writer of the letter had indicated the missing Picasso could be found. 

Clearing away snow and leaves, the pair told law enforcement that they found the fragile artwork wrapped in plastic.   Photographing it in the car, they then turned the artwork over to the Dutch Embassy in Bucharest. Westerman has since posted video footage of law enforcement authorities examining the work of art on his Facebook page. 

Image Credit: Facebook user Mira Feticu
For now, a team of DIICOT prosecutors and police officers of the Criminal Investigation Directorate - IGPR will conduct a follow up investigation.  To determine if the drawing is authentic, or part of an elaborate hoax, it has been sent to the National Museum of Art of Romania located in the Royal Palace Bucharest.  There art historians will work to assist in determining or negating the artwork's authenticity.  

Insured against losses, in September 2013 the Triton Foundation received a $24 million payout for the theft of their seven artworks from their insurance underwriter, Lloyd's of London.  In doing so, the foundation has relinquished the titles to each of the seven stolen works of art, should any of them ever be recovered.  This means, if this "Picasso" is authenticated, (and that's a pretty big if), the insurance firm would be the rightful owner.

Me, I have my doubts.  


Straightening the image presented by Feticu taken in the car, and then comparing it side by side with the original stolen artwork I see numerous points of difference in addition to many color variations. A few of these I have redlined.  I am not an authenticator, nor am I an expert on Picasso's work, or the degradation of paper drawings over time, but to me, it doesn't seem to be the original, as much as it would make me happy if it were.

UPDATE:

Theater makers Yves Degryse and Bart Baele have admitted that the found "Picasso" in Romania is a hoax, part of a publicity stunt for their performance True Copy, which premiered last week. 

By:  Lynda Albertson

October 30, 2014

Thursday, October 30, 2014 - ,, No comments

Caracas, Venezuela: Recovered stolen painting displayed next to forgery that masked theft

by Catherine Sezgin, ARCA blog Editor

In "Quirky Matisse exhibit rekindles art mystery in Venezuela" (Reuters, Oct. 28, 2014) Alexandra Ulmer reports on the exhibition of the Henri Matisse painting "Odalisque in Red Pants" next to the "sloppy copy that was put in it's place when the original was stolen" from the Caracas Museum of Contemporary Art sometime between 1999 and 2001:
The theft went unnoticed for months or even years because the robbers replaced it with a forgery. To this day, no one has been charged with the crime nor have its exact circumstances been established.
The Matisse painting was returned to Venezuela in July.  The FBI recovered it in 2012 and kept it for two years according to the Miami New Times.

September 2, 2014

Miami New Times' Michael E. Miller reports FBI delayed return of Stolen Matisse to Venezuela over 'hole in its history'

by Catherine Schofield Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor

According to the FBI, the Henri Matisse painting “Odalisque in Red Pants" stolen from the Caracas Museum of Contemporary Art (Museo de Arte Contemporaneo de Caracas (MACCSI)) in Venezuela in December 2002 was recovered in an undercover operation in Miami on July 16, 2012. Two men were arrested and later convicted (see USDOJ here and the ARCA post here). Four days ago, Michael E. Miller reported (Aug. 28) in The Miami New Times that the "FBI Delayed Returning Stolen Matisse Painting to Venezuela Over Concerns It Was Looted by Nazis":
"There was a concern that it may have been subject to Nazi looting," says Special Agent Robert Giczy, a member of the FBI's art crime unit and one of the agents involved in the odalisque investigation. "There was a hole in its history from 1931 to 1959," he said. "The Third Reich was 1933 to 1945. So we had a responsibility to ensure the status of the painting was [kosher]." "It was like trying to find the hole in a donut: something that just wasn't there," Giczy said. With assistance from the Getty Research Institute in California, the Art Loss Register in London, and the International Foundation for Art Research (IFAR) in New York, the FBI determined in April of 2014 that the painting had not been stolen by Nazis but had been privately owned in London and America during that period. "That freed the painting so that it was available for repatriation," Giczy said.
Miller wrote a longer article on the theft in "Chavez, Matisse, and the Heist that Shook the Americas" (August 27, 2014). 

July 3, 2014

Gurlitt Art Collection: Task force declares Matisse work was stolen from Paul Rosenberg and should be returned to his heirs by the heirs of Cornelius Gurlitt in accordance with the principles of the Washington Declaration

Julia Michalska reported for The Art Newspaper on June 11 in "Matisse painting in Gurlitt Hoard was Nazi loot, researchers find" that the painting by Henri Matisse titled Femme Assise (1921) had likely once belonged to Paul Rosenberg, a Jewish art dealer in Paris until the Nazi Occupation in 1940:
Ingeborg Berggreen Merkel, the head of the task force, said in a press statement released today: “Even though it could not be documented with absolute certainty how the work came into [Cornelius Gurlitt’s father] Hildebrand Gurlitt’s possession, the task force has concluded that the work is Nazi loot and was taken from its rightful owner Paul Rosenberg.” Merkel added that the final decision on what will happen to the painting “lies in the hands of the heirs of Cornelius Gurlitt, who, shortly before his death, committed himself to returning looted works in line with the Washington Principles. This commitment also binds his heirs”.
According to the Lost Art Internet Database website, the "Schwabing Art Trove" (named after the neighborhood where Cornelius Gurlitt resided) Task Force is examining the ownership of 590 works that may have been "confiscated" by the Nazis.

Here's a link to the the press release issued in German.

For further information on the Gurlitt case, the Central Registry of Information on Looted Cultural Property (1933-1945) you may go here on their website.

June 4, 2014

@artrecovery highlights FBI's Bonnie Magness-Gardiner's talk & the mention Fake Matisse in Venezuela that hid a theft for ten years

NYTimes: Matisse's Odalisque
by Catherine Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor

Here's one of the Tweets sent by @artrecovery (the work of Jerome Hasler) from the Art Crime and Cultural Heritage Symposium (June 4-6) at New York University today in regards to speaker Bonnie Magness-Gardiner of the FBI's Art Theft Program:
BMG - discussing faking of Matisse's 'Odalisque in Red Pants', all manner of issues with authentication once fake discovered #artcrime
A search on the Internet found a July 19, 2012 article in The New York Times by William Neuman, "Stolen Matisse, 'Odalisque in Red Pants Surfaces' (or "Topless Woman Found. Details Sketchy") about the recovery of a painting by Henri Matisse -- apparently the canvas hanging on the wall of the Contemporary Art Museum of Caracas in Venezuela, had obscured the theft of the original:
The theft of the painting was first discovered in late 2002, when the Contemporary Art Museum of Caracas was contacted by a Miami gallery owner saying that someone had offered to sell it to him. Experts at the museum inspected the likeness and were shocked to find that it was a fake, and not a very good one, at that. Someone had removed the original painting from its frame and put the fake in its place, leaving it to be exhibited as if it were the real thing. And no one noticed. The fake painting appears to have been hanging in the museum for at least two years and perhaps longer. Marianela Balbi, a journalist who wrote a book about the theft, said that a photograph taken in September 2000 shows President Hugo Chávez standing in the museum in front of the fake Matisse. That is the earliest indication of the switch, she said. The next month the museum heard from a Matisse expert that someone was shopping the painting around, Ms. Balbi said. But it appears no one followed up, and the theft went undiscovered for an additional two years.
The original painting by Matisse was recovered in Florida in Miami in a FBI undercover operation.

November 30, 2013

Gurlitt Art Collection: "Europe's dirty little art secret", 252 Works of Art Disclosed and HARP adds perspective

Gurlitt Collection: Daumier's
Don Quixote and Sancho Panza
Anne-Marie O'Connor, author of Lady in Gold: The Extraordinary Tale of Gustav Klimit's Masterpiece, Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer (reviewed here), writes an Op-Ed piece about "Europe's dirty little art secret" (Nov. 28) in the Los Angeles Times:
The outrage sparked by the clumsy handling of a Nazi-looted art trove in Munich, which was revealed this month, shows the urgent need for transparency in the art world, from museums to auction houses to private collections. For years this rarefied world has functioned like a private club. Many institutions, especially in Europe, have kept their World War II-era provenance files discreetly locked away, or have even quietly accepted questionable art from moneyed donors. Dealers too have looked the other way — until a painting stolen during the Holocaust is suddenly, fortuitously spotted, and an auction block turns into a crime scene. The Munich artworks — many of which were apparently either confiscated from Jewish families, bought for a fraction of their value or pulled off museum walls as "degenerate art" — are only the latest glaring example of the need for openness.
[...] 
The truth is this: Any work coming up for auction, offered in donation or held in state or private collections that has gaps or shifts in its ownership between 1933 and 1948 might have been stolen or obtained under duress. The records relating to such works must be made easily available, and the job of sorting through the documentation should be left to professionals who specialize in tracing Nazi art theft — and to the claimants themselves.
The Central Registry of Information on Looted Cultural Property 1933-1945 issues a weekly newsletter lootedart.com. This week the headlines include "252 Works of Art from the Gurlitt Collection Disclosed to Date":

Table of Gurlitt Works of Art Posted on www.lootedart.com
252 works of art have been posted on the German site lostart.de to date. They are posted in no particular order, are not searchable except by searching the entire lostart database, and the information in English is only an abbreviated version of that provided in German. In order to assist researchers and families searching for their missing artworks, the Central Registry, www.lootedart.com, has created a fully searchable table of all the artworks. This will be continually updated as new works are posted. The works are listed in alphabetical order by artist and the table includes all available provenance information.
For further information, click here.
Gurlitt Collection: Max Liebermann's Riders on the Beach
The Central Registry's list of the Gurlitt Works consists of many drawings, watercolors, prints, and lithographs by artists such as François Boucher, Canaletto, Cézanne, Marc Chagall, Corot, Daumier, Degas, Delacroix, André Derain, Otto Dix, Dürer, Ingres, Max Liebermann, Manet, Millet, Munch, Picasso, Pissarro, Rodin, Rousseau, Seurat, Tiepolo, and Toulouse-Lautrec. Three oil paintings are listed: Don Quixote and Sancho Panza by Honoré Daumier;  Riders on the beach by Max Liebermann (Provenance: Collection David Friedmann, Breslau); and Seated Woman in an Armchair by Henri Matisse (Provenance: Collection Paul Rosenberg, Paris; 1944 purchased from Gustav Rochlitz).

In the German DW.DE, journalist Jefferson Chase interviews HARP for a perspective in "Gurlitt case takes Allies, global art market to task": Parts of the Gurlitt collection are likely of dubious provenance. But why were they restored at all to an art dealer who had worked for the Nazis? DW asked two founders of the Holocaust Art Restitution Project:
One side to the story that has largely escaped scrutiny, however, is the role of Allied occupation authorities after World War II. After all, they were nominally responsible for ensuring that art looted by the Nazis was returned to its proper owners in the first place. Rightly or wrongly, the state prosecutor in the city of Augsburg has come under criticism for the length of time between the seizure, which was only made public by a German news magazine at the start of this month, and initial attempts to restore the artworks to their legitimate owners. But questions should also be asked as to how Germany's post-war occupiers could have allowed Hildebrand Gurlitt - one of the leading art dealers in the Third Reich - to amass a collection including works by Chagall, Matisse, Picasso, and Dix and then pass that trove on to his son Cornelius.
US soldiers had the tough task of finding the proper owners of looted art. 
Gurlitt Collection: Henri Matisse
Seated Woman in an Armchair
"I'm astonished at how quickly the Allied forces in charge of collection points for plundered art were to return it to whoever claimed it," Ori Soltes, an art professor at Georgetown University and a co-founder of the Holocaust Art Restitution Project (HARP), told DW. "There was even a case of art being given to a man claiming to represent Yugoslavia who was in fact just a private collector." 
According to historian Marc J. Masurovsky, another co-founder of HARP, Hildebrand Gurlitt was an established art dealer and a former museum director "who was given significant responsibilities during the 12-year reign of the National Socialists both to recycle thousands of so-called 'degenerate' works purged by decree from German public collections and to acquire untold numbers of works and objects of art at auctions inside the Reich and from galleries, dealers, collectors and artists living and working in German-occupied territories."