Showing posts with label museum theft. Show all posts
Showing posts with label museum theft. Show all posts

August 28, 2020

When a work of art is particularly popular among thieves. "Two Laughing Boys" has been stolen three times.

On 26 August 2020 the beautiful Hofje van Mevrouw van Aerden Museum in Leerdam, which houses a unique collection of 17th-century paintings, was struck by thieves.  As if three times is the charm, for the third time in a span of thirty-five years, an enterprising thief made his way into the Dutch museum and made off with the same painting.

The culprit(s) entered the museum by forcing open the back door of the museum at around half past 3 in the morning.  This, in turn, triggered the site's security system which automatically notified the local police authorities.  Unfortunately, by the time the dispatched officers arrived on the scene, the art thief was long gone. 

After a sweep of the Hofje van Mevrouw van Aerden with the museum's manager, it was determined that the 1626 painting "Two Laughing Boys" by Dutch Golden Age master Frans Hals was the only work of art taken...again. 

Stolen the first time in 1988 and recovered in 1991.  The Frans Hals artwork depicts two boys, one of whom is glancing longingly into his beer-mug.  The painting was then filched for a second time on 27 April 2011 and recovered on 28 October 2011 after the group of accomplices tried to sell it.  

This week's third theft occurred strategically on the anniversary of the artist's death and makes it the second painting stolen from a Dutch museum this year.  The first being Van Gogh's "Parsonage Garden at Nuenen in Spring" taken from the Singer Laren Museum on Vincent's birthday.

Dutch police are looking for witnesses to the break-in. If you or someone you know has seen or heard anything please contact the police on 0900-8844 or their anonymous tipline at 0800-7000 (free of charge).

April 23, 2020

Shocking images of the theft of the Van Gogh in Holland shows thief used a sledgehammer

Vincent van Gogh – Parish garden in Nuenen, Spring 1884. 25x57
The Dutch police have released a portion of the video surveillance footage of a single suspect directly involved in the nighttime theft of Vincent Van Gogh's Parish garden in Nuenen from the Singer Laren Museum.  

On loan from the Groninger Museum in the city of Groningen, the painting was part of the Mirror of the Soul exhibition which highlighted more than 70 Dutch paintings and was stolen on Match 30, 2020, 167 years to the day of the artist's birth. The burglary took a matter of minutes.   

CCTV footage released by law enforcement and the museum shows a man approaching the museum by motorcycle and then smashing his way through the museum's front doors with a sledgehammer.  Once inside the museum, he finds a second glass door locked and with seven or eight blows, quickly bashes his way through to access the gallery area.  

The thief is then seen retracing his steps through the museum's gift shop carrying the 25-by-57-centimeter (10-by-22-inch) oil-on-paper painting under his right arm while balancing the sledgehammer in his left hand. 


Police would like to hear from any potential witnesses who saw the thief arrive outside the museum on a motorcycle.  You can pass your tip on 0800-6070 or online via https: //www.politie.nl/mijn-buurt/nie 

If you want to remain anonymous, please call 0800-7000.

April 3, 2020

Revisiting the clues of a theft: the case of the theft at the Pinacoteca Comunale di Faenza


Sometimes it is good to go back and review old blog posts and provide updates as it is not always possible to track every case of theft when not widely publicised, and sometimes the clues left behind by one set of thieves can be useful in examining the methods of detecting criminal actors in other thefts.  Such is the case of the theft of a small panel painting "Crucifixion and Descent into Limbo" stolen from the Italian city of Faenza.

Vestibule, Maestro of Faenza Sec. XIII
"Crucifixion and descent into limbo"
35x28 cm.  + frame 15 cm., N. inv. 98
Image Credit: Pinacoteca Comunale
di Faenza
Two years ago, on Thursday morning, March 01, 2018, a small panel painting, dating back to the 1200s attributed to the Maestro of Faenza was reported stolen from the Pinacoteca Comunale di Faenza.  The oldest museum in the city, the museum's collection was established in 1797, when the municipality purchased the private collection of Giuseppe Zauli, much of which centered on paintings and sculptures from the 13th to the 18th century.

The stolen panel painting, attributed to the Maestro of Faenza, depicts two scenes, the crucifixion of Christ with the cross in the center on the top portion of the panel followed by Christ's descent into limbo with angels and saints on the bottom.  The framed panel, which dates back to the thirteenth century, had been on public display in the Pinacoteca's Hall of the Vestibule, where it was hung just to the left of the Crocefisso del Maestro Francescano in Gallery 6. 

According to a televised report given at the time by Claudio Casadio, the director of the Pinacoteca, the theft was discovered during a morning walkthrough by personnel who discovered the empty frame and backboard mounting discarded in the gallery where the artwork had been hung.  Given the panel painting's small size, the artwork may have been hidden under the thief's winter clothing and snatched at some point during the museum's opening hours though the date of the theft itself and the potential methodology used by the criminal was not defined publicly at the time the city announced the theft.

Recovered Sant'Ambrogio
di Giusto de' Menabuoi
Sometimes in investigative work, silence is golden. 

Fast forward to just a few months later, and the Faenza artwork was recovered, found in the home of an individual in Bologna, hidden in a piece of furniture, along with two other recently stolen paintings: a Sant'Ambrogio di Giusto de' Menabuoi stolen from the Pinacoteca di Bologna just a few days after the Faenza theft and a 17th century Portrait of a Woman stolen in mid March from the Museo Civico di San Domenico in Imola.

Reconstructing the methodology of the thefts lead to the subject being identified. 

At the time of the thefts, police kept some of the clues regarding the thief's modus operandi to themselves.  The thief which targeted the Pinacoteca Nazionale in Bologna, where a work by the artist Giusto de 'Menabuoi had been removed, stole the artwork during the museum's opening hours.  Likewise, the timing of the thefts from the Museo Civico di San Domenico and the Pinacoteca Comunale di Faenza had strong similarities, details, investigators preferred not to disclose to protect their investigations.

During their investigations the Carabinieri of the Cultural Heritage Protection Unit of Bologna, in collaboration with the Investigative Unit of the Provincial Command and with the Companies of Faenza and Imola spent time comparing and contrasting the security footage looking for clues and similarities and were subsequently able to identify a single individual in the footage with the same physiognomy, immortalised by CCTV security cameras in the museums and in the nearby civic spaces.

Shortly after the suspect's description was identified, an individual with the same distinct physical profile was identified visiting another museum in the city of  Bologna and acting suspiciously, perhaps either casing the museum for a future theft or with the intent of stealing another painting that very day.  Interrupted from his activity, law enforcement then followed the individual back through the streets of Bologna watching him until he returned to his place of residence.

With the house identified, and with the CCTV footage to back up their hunch, a search warrant was issued by the judicial authorities and the man's house was searched.  Inside, the officers recovered not only the three historic works of art, but most importantly, the incriminating clothing worn during one of the three heists.

All the artworks were returned to their respective institutions in just under two months. Not bad.  Let's hope the recent Van Gogh theft in the Netherlands at the Singer Laren Museum has an equally expedient, and happy, ending.




March 30, 2020

Van Gogh thefts by our count: 37 Van Gogh works of art have been stolen, 3 of them two times each, over the course of 15 separate art thefts.


When opportunity has knocked, art thieves have often had a preference for works of art attributed to Vincent Van Gogh.   But just how many artworks by Vincent van Gogh have been stolen? 

Van Gogh, who in his lifetime only sold one painting, has long commanded substantial figures in the contemporary art world. Eight of his masterpieces are ranked among the world's 50 most expensive works of art ever sold.    

Echoing that, the wave pattern of art theft often mirrors the whimsy of the art market. Then thieves follow the path of least protection or resistance and strike at objects known to be of value in places that allow for the opportunity.

Taking a look inside ARCA's database of art crimes involving the artist Vincent Van Gogh by our count, 37 Van Gogh works of art have been stolen, 3 of them two times each, over the course of 15 separate art thefts.

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Vincent van Gogh – Parish garden in Nuenen, Spring 1884. 25x57
167 years after his birth on March 30, 1853, one of his paintings, Parish garden in Nuenen, painted in the Spring of 1884 has been stolen, becoming the first museum theft, publicly announced which hints at the vulnerability of museums during the worldwide pandemic. 

On loan from the Groninger Museum in the city of Groningen, the painting was part of the Mirror of the Soul exhibition and was scheduled to hang at the Singer Laren Museum from 14 January until 10 May 2020.  

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Stolen in 1937 - The Lovers: The Poet's Garden IV, 1888 is only known to the art world through an 1888 letter from Vincent Van Gogh to his brother, Theo and a single black and white photograph.

This painting was seized by Reichsfeldmarschall Hermann Göring along with three other Van Gogh paintings from Berlin and Frankfurt between 1937 and 1938 from the National Galerie in Berlin - most probably because he wanted to monetize it, along with others.

This artwork, likely an oil on canvas was completed the same year the letter to Theo was sent and is all the more touching for the small sketch the artist sent to his brother along with his letter.  This work has been been missing since 1937/38 and has never been recovered. 

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February 17, 1975 – Van Gogh watercolour Breton Women (after Emile Bernard) also known as Les bretonnes et le pardon de pont Aven was one of 28 works of art stolen from the Galleria d'Arte Moderna in Milan, Italy. The painting was recovered in an apartment registered to an alias in Milan on April 6, 1975.  It too was stolen a second time, just one month later. See the individual theft post here.

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May 15, 1975 - Van Gogh watercolour Breton Women (after Emile Bernard) also known as Les bretonnes et le pardon de pont Aven was stolen for a second time along with 37 other Impressionist and Post Impressionist works of art from the Galleria d'Arte Moderna in Milan, Italy. This follow-up theft included many of same artworks previously taken during the February 17, 1975 theft. The Van Gogh was recovered on November 2, 1975 in what was then West Germany along with ten other stolen artworks taken during the second the Galleria d'Arte Moderna theft. See the individual theft post here.


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June 4, 1977 - Poppy Flowers (also known as Vase And Flowers and Vase with Viscaria) 1887 was stolen from Cairo's Mohamed Mahmoud Khalil Museum and later recovered only to then be stolen again in 2010. 

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May 20, 1988 - Three paintings Vase with Carnations (1886) by Vincent Van Gogh, La maison du maître Adam Billaud à Nevers (The House of Master Adam Billaud at Nevers) painted in 1874 by Johan Barthold Jongkind and Bouteilles et pêches (Bottles and peaches) painted in 1890 by Paul Cézanne were stolen from the Stedelijk Museum, next door to the Van Gogh Museum on the Museumplein in Amsterdam.  All three works of art were recovered undamaged.  See the individual theft post here.

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December 12, 1988 -  Three Van Goghs worth an estimated €113 million euros were stolen from the The Kröller-Müller Museum in Otterlo about 60 miles east of Amsterdam. The stolen works of art included the second of three painted sketches titled De aardappeleters, (the potato eaters) completed in 1885, as well as two other works Four Cut Sunflowers, (also known as Overblown Sunflowers from August-September), 1887 and Loom with Weaver,1884.  All three paintings were recovered but had sustained damages.  See the individual theft post here.

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June 28, 1990 - Three early Van Gogh paintings, Digging farmer, 1885-87, Brabant Peasant, seated, 1884-1885, and Wheels of the Water Mill in Gennep were stolen from the Het Noordbrabants Museum in Den Bosch, Netherlands. The Digging Farmer was found in 1991 in a bank safe in Belgium. The other two paintings were returned in 1994 via negotiations with a tertiary party.  See the individual theft post here.

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April 14, 1991 - 20 paintings by Vincent van Gogh were stolen from the Vincent Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. All 20 paintings were recovered within 24 hours. Three of the 20 paintings were severely damaged. Four perpetrators, including one museum guard and a former employee of the museum's security firm were arrested in July 1991.  See the entire list of artworks and the individual theft post here.

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May 19, 1998  -  The prestigious Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Moderna in Rome was robbed by three armed with guns shortly before closing time. The criminals stole two paintings by Vincent Van Gogh's L'Arlésienne, 1889 and Le Jardinier, October 1889 and Paul Cézanne's Cabanon de Jourdan, 1906.  On July 5, 1998 eight suspects were arrested and all three paintings were recovered.   See the individual theft post here.

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May 13-15, 1999 - the Vincent van Gogh painting, The Willow, was stolen from the headquarters of F. van Lanschot Bankiers NV in Den Bosch. The painting was recovered in 2006 following an undercover sting operation where two suspects were arrested. See the individual theft post here.

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December 7, 2002 - Two thieves using a ladder break in to the Van Gogh Museum making off with two paintings, View of the Sea at Scheveningen (1882) and Congregation Leaving the Reformed Church in Nuenen (1884). Following an intensive international investigation, two Dutchmen, Octave Durham, A.K.A. "The Monkey" and Henk Bieslijn were arrested in 2004 for their respective roles in the burglary. Durham received a prison sentence of 4.5 years. Henk Bieslijn was sentenced to 4 years incarceration. Each of the culprits were ordered to pay the Van Gogh Museum €350,000 in damages and both denied responsibility.  The paintings remianed lost for 14 years only to resurface in late September 2016 in the Castellammare di Stabia area in the Bay of Naples. During a blitz by Italian law enforcement on members of an illicit cocaine trafficking ring operated by  a splinter group of the Naples Camorra, the paintings were recovered.  See individual theft post here. 

April 26, 2003 - Three paintings including Van Gogh's The Fortification of Paris with Houses, Picasso's Poverty and Gauguin's Tahitian Landscape were taken from The Whitworth Art Gallery at The University of Manchester. The works of art were found the next day crammed into a tube behind a public toilet in Manchester's Whitworth Park. See the individual theft post here.

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February 10, 2008 - Four paintings were stolen at gunpoint from a private Zürich gallery run by the Foundation E.G. Bührle in Switzerland. The paintings were Blossoming Chestnut Branches by Vincent Van Gogh, Paul Cezanne's Boy in the Red Waistcoat, Claude Monet's Poppies near Vétheuil and Edgar Degas' Count Lepic and His Daughters.  The Van Gogh and Monet were recovered on February 18, 2008.  The Degas was recovered in April 2012 and Cezanne's Boy in the Red Waistcoat was recovered April 12, 2012.  See the individual theft post here.

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August 21, 2010Poppy Flowers (also known as Vase And Flowers and Vase with Viscaria) 1887 was stolen for the second time from the Mohamed Mahmoud Khalil Museum in Cairo.  Its current whereabouts are still unknown. 

By Lynda Albertson

Not a Happy Birthday Vincent. Van Gogh stolen from the Singer Laren Museum on the day of the artist's birth.

Vincent van Gogh – Parish garden in Nuenen, Spring 1884. 25x57
Today is not a very happy birthday for Vincent Van Gogh.  167 years after his birth on March 30, 1853, one of his paintings, Parish garden in Nuenen, painted in the Spring of 1884 has been stolen, becoming the first museum theft, publicly announced which hints at the vulnerability of museums during the worldwide pandemic. 

On loan from the Groninger Museum in the city of Groningen, the painting was part of the Mirror of the Soul exhibition which highlighted more than 70 Dutch paintings.  Scheduled to hang in the Singer Laren Museum from 14 January until 10 May 2020, the event was held in cooperation with Amsterdam's Rijksmuseum, also included works of art by Toorop and Mondrian, as well as others.  No other works were reported as having been stolen. 


Closed until March 31 to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus, police have indicated that the thief or thieves accessed the Singer Laren Museum by brazenly breaking in through the front door.



For now, the Dutch National Police and local authorities are asking any potential witnesses or individuals who have security cameras at their house or business near the museum, which may have captured images of the potential perpetrator(s) around 3:15 am, to please share the saved footage with the police. 

They can be contacted at: 0900-8844 or 0800-7000 (anonymously).
Van Gogh, who in his lifetime only sold one painting, has long commanded substantial figures in the contemporary art world. Eight of his masterpieces are ranked among the world's 50 most expensive works of art ever sold. 

Yet, when opportunity has knocked, art thieves often have a preference for works of art attributed to Vincent Van Gogh.  Taking a look inside ARCA's database of art crimes involving the artist, by our count, and including today's theft, 37 Van Gogh works of art have been stolen, 3 of them two times each, over the course of 15 separate art thefts.

By: Lynda Albertson

March 16, 2020

Museum Theft: Three Baroque paintings stolen from Christ Church, University of Oxford

Image Credit:  Thames Valley Police
Three Baroque Period paintings have been stolen from the Christ Church Picture Gallery, an art museum at Christ Church, a constituent college of the University of Oxford in England.  According to law enforcement reports the theft took place at around 11pm on Saturday, 14 March 2020. 

The three paintings are:

Oil on Canvas, circa 1616
H 91 x W 55 cm
Accession number: JBS 246

Oil on Canvas, circa 1640 
H 75.2 x W 61 cm
Accession number: JBS 222

Oil on Canvas, circa 1580
H 75.5 x W 64 cm
Accession number: JBS 180

All three paintings had been bequeathed to Christ Church: two of them centuries ago.

The museum is known for its impressive collection of Old Masters paintings and drawings, with an emphasis on Italian art from the 14th to the 18th century. Works in the museum also include paintings and drawings by Titian, Caravaggio, Michelangelo, Dürer, Raphael, Rembrandt, Rubens and Tintoretto, many of which were donated by General John Guise (1682/1683–1765) in the eighteenth century and whose portrait is also to be seen in one of the museum's rooms. Guise is known to have donated some 200 artworks to the college in furtherance of its art education programming. 

Headed by Detective Chief Inspector Jon Capps, the Thames Valley Police are  appealing for witnesses who may have seen or heard anything suspicious in the immediate area or elsewhere on on St. Aldates or High Street.  They are also asking for assistance from area businesses who may have CCTV footage which could aid in their investigation.   Officers can be contacted by calling the non-emergency number 101, or making a report online using the reference 43200087031.  Individuals who wish to remain anonymous can contact the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

February 25, 2020

Mild prison sentences handed down in organized crime-related theft at the Bode Museum in Berlin


When a giant gold coin, weighing 100 kilos was stolen from room 243 of the Bode Museum and carted off without a hitch in the early morning hours of March 27, 2017 it wasn't long before the German authorities pinpointed a likely group of culprits.  Taking only 16 minutes to carry out the crime, complete with carbon-fiber-reinforced ax used to break the extremely heavy security glass, and with the help of a strategically placed roller and wheelbarrow, it was obvious that the museum's burglary was not a random smash and grab.  All clues pointed to inside help, especially as the culprits had walked straight passed higher value, but less liquidatable works of art.

Raids carried out by authorities in Neukölln, Berlin’s most impoverished district, in July 2017 turned up an interesting wrinkle; three of the four men taken into custody for questioning, Wayci Remmo (now 24) Ahmed Remmo (now 20), and Wissam Remmo (now 22) all appeared to have ties to one of Germany’s burgeoning ethnic crime syndicates.  Now headed by brothers Issa and Ashraf Remmo, the clan's defacto patriarchs, the Remmo clan includes an estimated 500 family members people, many of whom originate from Mardin, and immigrated first to Lebanon, and later to Germany.  

Der Spiegel estimates that while that clans make up just four percent of Berlin's inhabitants, 20 percent of suspects in organized crime cases belong to one of the well-known clans.  For decades it is believed that male members of this and similar ethnic family clans, have been associated with extortion, drugs, laundering criminal proceeds, theft and robbery.  The complicated family ties and ownership structures developed by the clans' membership make it possible for the tightly knit groups to launder money - and sometimes, but not in this case, make it considerably more difficult for investigators to work. 

In this case, it was the fourth suspect, Denis Wilhelm's friendship with Ahmed's which helped unravel the case.  Wilhelm had conveniently been hired as a subcontractor for night shift security at the Bode Museum the same month as the theft.

After lengthy hearings, cousins Ahmed and Wissam Remmo, both German citizens were convicted as having orchestrated the job with the help of their German friend, after evidence obtained during the search of 17 residences and related property tied the men to the scene of the crime. During these searches, police found clothing which to matched security footage from the theft as well as gold particles of the same purity as the mammoth coin and shards of glass similar to that of the protective casing which was smashed to access the coin at the museum.  

A search of Wissam Remmo's smart phone also showed an app used to calculate gold prices as well as recent searches on how to melt down chunks of gold. Given this, authorities have surmised that the €3.75 million coin was hacked up into smaller bits, melted down, and the proceeds distributed among an unknown or unnamed number of affiliates. 

Sentenced lightly, given the offense took place while they were juveniles, Ahmed and Wissam Remmo were each given just 54 months in prison.  Their heavist punishment appears to be the fine they were adjudicated, totalling €3.3 million , the estimated total loss of the stolen coin.  

Wissam Remmo's sentence comes on top of an earlier conviction where DNA at a crime scene tied him to another property theft.  In that criminal case he was recently sentenced to two years and six months in prison via the district court of Erlangen. 

Their inside-man accomplice, Denis Wilhelm, was given a sentence of 40 months and was fined fine of €100,000. The fourth defendant, Wayci Remmo, a cousin of the two brothers, was acquitted of all charges as the court found the evidence insufficient to convict. 

To learn more about the structure of these groups, German readers can read 
Ralph Ghadban's Arabische Clans: Die unterschätzte Gefahr.  Ghadban, who has spoken out about the criminal machinations of the Arabische Großfamilie clans which dominate Berlin's underworld, is now under permanent police protection, for his criticism of the clans and the power of the Lebanese mafia in Europe. 

February 12, 2020

Convictions in the Nizam Museum Theft.

Image Credit: Hyderabad Police
Two burglars, Mohammed Mubeen (24) and Mohammed Ghouse Pasha (23), responsible for the jewelry theft from the Nizam Museum housed in the Purani Haveli palace have been found guilty and convicted by a local court in Hyderabad, India on Tuesday. 

The palace was once the official residence of the Nizam, the last of whom ruled over the region from 1911 to 1948, when Hyderabad State was annexed by India. 

The pair entered the museum sometime on the evening of Sunday, September 2, 2018 by dislodging a ventilation grill which allowed them to enter an exhibition gallery where they proceeded to break into a non alarmed exhibition case and make off with a three-tier diamond-studded gold tiffin box with trays, as well as a golden tea cup and saucer embedded with ruby and emeralds, a spoon and a tray which once belonged to the 7th Nizam. Tiffins (or dhabbas) are traditionally round metal lunch containers with three or four stacking compartments used for serving traditional homemade thali lunches which feature bread, pickles, spicy curries, and sometimes desserts.

With the help of the public, Hyderabad City Police's Commissioner’s Task Force (South) team quickly recovered the stolen museum objects a short while later and identified the pair, who were then formally charged. 
Yesterday, City Police Commissioner Anjani Kumar confirmed that the court had issued its verdict, sentencing the duo to two years of imprisonment.

January 17, 2020

Recovered 'Portrait of a Lady' by Gustav Klimt deemed authentic by Italian Experts.


The painting known as 'Portrait of a Lady' by Gustav Klimt, which was recovered last December, after being discovered hidden in a utilities box attached to the Galleria d'Arte Moderna Ricci Oddi in Piacenza, has been deemed authentic by Italian experts.  During a press conference held today Prosecutor Ornella Chicca told reporters: "It is with no small emotion that I can tell you the work is authentic." 

The painting had been stolen in February 1997. Yet, despite many leads, as well as talks with a local art thief who claimed he had stolen the original while it still hung in the gallery, replacing it with a duplicate, the artwork remained missing for nearly 23 years.   That is until it was found on the very same grounds from which it disappeared.

December 21, 2019

Mysterious Museum Theft Recovery. The long-missing shield gifted to Italy's General Garibaldi has been recovered in Rome.


This week, officers from the operational department of Italy's Comando Carabinieri per la Tutela del Patrimonio Culturale and the Rome Gianicolense Station have recovered an important ornamental bronze shield.  The object,  gifted as a sign of gratitude to Giuseppe Garibaldi by the citizens of Sicily in May 1878 was donated to Rome by Garibaldi and first kept in the Capitoline Museum.  Later it was transferred to the National Museum of the Risorgimento located inside the Palazzo del Vittoriano (the Victor Emmanuel II National Monument) complex, where at some point, it disappeared from the collection approximately twenty years ago. 

Giuseppe Garibaldi
Spanning some 118 centimeters in diameter, the shield was no small thing for a thief or disgruntled employee to have walked off with undetected.  Crafted by Antonio Ximenes, the shield weighs in at close to 50 kilograms.  Intricately decorated, it  illustrates eight engraved allegorical groups which bear the coat of arms of Italy's most important cities.  At the shield's center, the easily recognizable shield boss, or umbo, depicts a likeness of Garibaldi himself. Even more identifiable, the entire shield was etched with a laurel wreath where the names of all 1089 "Mille di Marsala" were engraved.

Given how recognizable this Italian patriot and soldier of the Risorgimento was, and how well published the shield is, having been the subject  of engravings and detailed in various exhibition documents, fencing the historic object after its theft
from the museum would have likely drawn considerable attention.  Instead, the shield simply vanished without a trace, only to resurface in the news as having been located in the private residence of a yet unnamed "Rome architect".  

Given that the squad is usually quick to name individuals involved in theft or in receiving stolen goods when it comes to thefts of Italy's cultural patrimony, it will be interesting to see if the public prosecutors name who this Rome architect is.   Moreover it is really very difficult to believe that whoever "owned" the object, they were not aware of its illegal origin.  




December 12, 2019

The mysteries of the mysteriously appearing Klimt


Painted by the Austrian secessionist Gustav Klimt (1862-1918), the only known “double” artwork created by the artist, "Portrait of a Lady," was discovered missing from the Galleria d'Arte Moderna Ricci Oddi, on February 22, 1997.  The painting's disappearance was strange, the frame for the artwork was found on the roof of the building, along with a potential fingerprint from one of the culprits, and yet, the Carabinieri estimated that the artwork was too large to have been pushed or pulled through the gallery roof skylight, so why was it found there?

Despite many leads, and talks with a local art thief who claimed he had stolen the original painting while it still hung in the gallery, replacing it with a duplicate,  the painting remained missing for almost 23 years. That is until it was found on the same grounds from which it disappeared.  

During routine gardening, the artwork was found nestled inside a small metal cubby, attached the side of the gallery, in a location previously covered with ivy.  The fact that the painting appears to be in good condition, despite the humid environment makes in unlikely that it remained stashed in this hidden location for the duration the artwork has been missing. 



Once part of a large collection of artworks, amassed and donated to the city of Piacenza by a local noble, and art aficionado Giuseppe Ricci Oddi (1868-1937) in the early 20th century, the Klimt had been on display at the former Convent of San Siro in Piacenza and was in preparation for a temporary move to a new location near Piacenza’s City Hall while its home gallery underwent renovations.  It was during this period of movement that the original, or if the purported thief is to be believed, his copy of the artwork went missing.  

Adding possible credibility to the informant's statements regarding a faked version of the artwork, on 1 April 1997, border police working on the Italian/French border at Ventimiglia intercepted a package addressed to the former Italian Prime Minister Bettino Craxi which contained a high quality forgery of the artwork. Why someone would be sending the disgraced former PM, a fugitive since 1994 in Tunisia, protected by Ben Ali's government was unclear. 

Prior to its removal from the Galleria d'arte moderna Ricci Oddi the artwork had drawn considerable attention thanks to the sharp eyes of a young Italian woman named Claudia Maga.  She was the first to notice that the Piacenza artwork bore a close similarity to a second known Klimt artwork depicting an almost identical woman glancing over her left shoulder. That matching painting had not been seen since 1912 and the similarity of the two subjects portrayed, led scholars to consider whether or not "Portrait of a Young Lady" and "Portrait of a Lady" might in fact be one and the same.  

Yet, the Piacenza painting has some marked differences. The missing 1912 portrait depicted the woman with a hat and scarf, while the Italian-based portrait did not.  Proffering that perhaps the artist had reworked the first in favor of the latter, analytical studies were made using x-radiography at a local hospital which made it possible to examine the layers beneath the surface and to reveal more information about the composition beneath the portrait. These tests proved Maga's hunch was correct, yet why Klimt chose to rework the painting remained subject to speculation. 

For now, the recovered artwork will undergo authentication, to determine of the painting found in the outer walls of the gallery is the missing artwork stolen more than two decades ago.  If it is, the next question will be where and with whom it really was for the bulk of the almost twenty-three years it was missing. 

November 17, 2019

Culprits Identified in the theft at the Museo Civico Archeologico in Castiglion Fiorentino


Proving that museum theft is a bad idea, the Carabinieri and the local municipal police force have identified two culprits, aged 20 and 23 responsible for breaking in the Museo Civico Archeologico in Castiglion Fiorentino with a crow bar during the early morning hours of November 9th.  

Analyzing CCTV surveillance footage, which captured the culprits lighting their way to the stash using their cell phones, as well as images in the city's historic center, investigators were able to hone in on two individuals responsible for the burglary in just four days.  After that, they questioned the suspects about their whereabouts at the time of the theft.

After contradicting one another, and eventually breaking under the stress, the 23 year old, listed only by his initials as "SM" quickly confessed, soon after followed by his accomplice.   Later, the pair led the authorities to the spot in Valle di Chio, a valley in the municipality of Castiglion Fiorentino, where the 61 mostly bronze and silver objects had been buried at the foot of a tree, along the banks of a stream for later retrieval. 

As is sometimes the predictable case in thefts of this nature, one of the two accomplices had once worked at the museum. A second irrefutable bit of evidence, the GPS location data from the cell phones they carried at the time of the theft.  With this law enforcement can conclusively pinpoint their locations at the time the alarm system sounded.  

In the famous words of Forrest Gump:  "Stupid is as stupid does."


By:  Vittoria Ricci

November 9, 2019

Saturday, November 09, 2019 - ,, No comments

Museum Theft: Numismatic thieves also strike at the Museo Civico Archeologico in Castiglion Fiorentino

In the second of two museum thefts reported in Italy this week, two thieves broke into the Museo Civico Archeologico in Castiglion Fiorentino around 2:00 am by forcing open a window in Palazzo Pretorio, in the early morning hours of 7 November.   As the alarm sounded drawing attention to their incursion, the culprits had to work quickly in order to complete their burglary before a private security firm, responding to the alarm, had time to intervene.

Once inside the museum, CCTV footage captured the pair on the second floor, where they proceeded to break into a display case and make off with thirty papal medals donated to the museum by a private collector. At present, it is not known whether their choice of objects was premeditated or simply an impulsive grab to get in and get out quickly before being captured.  Officials have reported however that the thieves took gilded gold medals from the case while leaving behind others which were dull in appearance but more valuable, being made of silver.

Saturday, November 09, 2019 - ,,, No comments

Museum Theft: Museo di San Mamiliano in Sovana, Italy


In one of two museum thefts this week in Italy, authorities have reported that fifty gold solidus, dating back to the 5th century CE have been stolen from the Museo di San Mamiliano in Sovana, Italy.  

Discovered during restoration works carried out under the floors of the city church of San Mamiliano in 2004, the hoard of gold coins is known as the Treasure of Sovana.  Coins like these, were once in use by the Byzantine Empire between the fourth and tenth centuries. 

In total, cultural authorities documented 498 coins in the cache which can be dated chronologically between the beginning of the 5th century with the reign of Honorius and the last decades of the century - the reign of Zeno. Each of the coins weighed in at approximately 1/72 of a Roman pound (approx. 4,5 grams), and is said to be nearly 24 karat gold (so in excess of 99% pure).

It has been reported that once the thief or thieves entered the museum, they were able to deactivate the alarm system connected to the local carabinieri station and then turn off the internal video surveillance system to impede their identification.  For good measure the thieves also stole a CCTV backup storage device, likely indicating they were familiar with the museum's security. 

Once inside the museum, the culprits attempted to break the safety glass surrounding the coins, but meeting some resistance, and pressed for time, the thieves made off with only a portion of the gold coins on display. 

The following is a list of the coins that make up the Treasure of Sovana divided by empire and by name of the emperor (or emperors) transcribed.  Note: Which coins are missing has not been released. 

Western Empire
  • Honorius: eight coins; mints of Milan and Ravenna.
  • Valentinian III: twelve coins; mints of Constantinople, Milan, Ravenna and Rome.
  • Petronius: a coin; mint of Rome.
  • Miano: two coins; mints of Milan and Ravenna.
  • Libio Severo: ten coins; mints of Milan, Ravenna and Rome.
  • Anthemius: seventeen coins; mints of Milan, Ravenna and Rome.
  • Glycerine: a coin; Mint of Milan.
  • Giulio Nepote: six coins; mints of Arelate, Milan, Ravenna and an unidentified Germanic area.
  • Romulus Augustus: eight coins; mints of Arelate, Milan and Rome.

Eastern Empire
  • Theodosius II: twenty-three coins; mints of Constantinople, Ravenna and Thessalonica.
  • Pulcheria: a coin; mint of Constantinople.
  • Marciano: eleven coins; mints of Constantinople and Thessalonica.
  • Leo I: twelve coins; mints of Constantinople, Milan, Rome and Thessalonica.
  • Leo I and Leo II: a coin; mint of Constantinople.
  • Leo II and Zeno: two coins; mint of Constantinople.
  • Basilisk: eight coins; mints of Constantinople, Milan and Rome.
  • Basilisk and Mark: two coins; mint of Constantinople.
  • Zeno: two coins; mint of Constantinople.
  • Ariadne (Wife of Zeno and Anastasius, daughter of Leo I, mother of Leo II): a coin; mint of Constantinople.


Today, the fifth-century solidus is highly sought after, as much for its gold purity, as for its historical interest. Purchased legally, they are usually more expensive than a denarius issued by the same emperor. 

September 15, 2019

Museum Theft: Literally taking the piss, a $4.9m golden lavatory has been stolen from Blenheim Palace


Pre-installation view, "America, 2016" by Maurizio Cattelan arriving at Blenheim Palace, 2019
Image Credit Blenheim Palace
Stolen during a burglary just days after it was plumbed into Blenheim Palace, the monumental country house in Woodstock, Oxfordshire where former prime minister Winston Churchill was born, artist Maurizio Cattelan's
Installation view, "America, 2016"
by Maurizio Cattelan
Image Credit: Blenheim Palace
18-karat gold, fully functional toilet has been yanked out of its posh installation setting on Saturday, September 14th.

Titled "America" the solid golden toilet some have deemed a smug symbol of excess, was created for the Guggenheim Museum in New York City where it debuted in 2016 as part of a "interactive" exhibition usable by the museum's patron's as a modest, single-occupancy museum restroom.  Similarly installed this week in Blenheim Palace's wood-panelled surroundings, the artwork is part of Cattelan's first significant solo exhibition in the UK in 20 years, which was set to run from 12 September - 27 October 2019.

In keeping with the interactive hilarity of Cattelan's installation, the golden throne was reservable in three minute time slots via bookings with the visitor's center in the Great Hall of the 18th Century stately home.  Collection patrons at Blenheim Palace were also encouraged to tag themselves in photos using the hashtags #AmericaBlenheimPalace or #CattelanatBlenheimPalace, though thankfully Brit's seem to have more decorum than to snap self-indulgent selfies on a golden loo. 


When a giant gold coin, weighing 100 kilos was stolen from the Münzkabinett (coin cabinet) at the Bode Museum in Berlin in the early morning hours of March 27, 2017 insider involvement was believed to play a part and subsequently thereafter an employee, who held a subcontracting job at the museum was named a suspect. 

During yesterday's remarkably straight-faced press conference, Inspector Richard Nicholls of the  Thames Valley Police addressed the media to announce details of the toilet's theft.  


Authorities believe thieves in possibly two vehicles left the palace after removing the toilet sometime around 4:50 a.m on Saturday, September 15th. A 66-year-old man has been taken into custody in possible connection with the theft but has yet to be named and until now the toilet has not been recovered. 

All puns aside, and in this case there are many floating around, gold is presently valued at around $1,500 per troy ounce. 18 karat gold is a mixture of pure gold and other metals in the ratio 3:1.  Using that ratio, the toilet would have been made up of 75% pure gold, 15% silver and 10% copper.  Weighing in at 103 kilos of gold (3311.53 troy ounces), once melted down, the smelted gold would be worth $4,967,295 USD.

Person's with any information regarding this incident, should contact the Thames Valley Police on 101, quoting URN 273 (14/9), or report their information via their law enforcement website: https://www.thamesvalley.police.uk

August 27, 2019

Unsolved Art Theft: Revisiting the theft of Rodin's "The Man with the Broken Nose"


In broad daylight, during opening hours, in peak tourist season, two men entered the Rodin Hall of the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek Museum in Copenhagen and quickly made off with a 25.5 cm bronze bust by the French sculptor Auguste Rodin (1840-1917).  The museum heist was speedy and smoothly executed. 

Part of the Danish museum's collection for 95 years, the stolen artwork was one of approximately 200 busts Rodin created in the form of "The Man with the Broken Nose". The inspiration for which is believed to have been based upon the features of an elderly workman named “Bibi” from the Saint-Marcel district of Paris.  According to expert Jérôme Le Blay, formerly of the Musée Rodin and the founder of the Comité Rodin, these 200 artworks appear in as many as six distinct versions, some forty of which he believes are similar to the one stolen from the Glyptotek. 

Image Credit: 
Copenhagen Police
Having cased the museum nine days earlier, the brazen theft took place on the 16th of July in 2015.  During two separate visits the perpetrators disguised themselves as nondescript visiting tourists and entered into the Dahlerup Wing, the oldest part of the museum.  As verified by Copenhagen Police surveillance footage released one month after the theft, the two criminals were approximately 30 to 40 years of age and of average height, between 170-175 cm tall.

During their first reconnaissance foray inside the museum, the pair detached the bronze sculpture from its plinth, tilting it from its base and then replacing the object to its proper position when no alarm was signalled.  During their second visit, the two individuals entered the museum separately.  With no guard present in the gallery where the bronze was displayed, the first, wearing a greyish blue baseball cap, glasses, and a plaid shirt, feigned interest in another Rodin sculpture located in the same gallery, Les Bourgeois de Calais.  This allowed him to kill time without raising suspicion while awaiting the arrival of his accomplice.  

Image Credit: 
Copenhagen Police
The second man, wearing shorts, a light-coloured panama hat and dark sunglasses, entered the museum with two seperate mail bags, each strapped across his body; one in the front and one towards the back.  He is seen on CCTV stills release by police casually entering the Rodin gallery, where he is seen joining up with his accomplice.  

Once together in the Rodin Gallery, just off the museum's foyer, the straw hatted man removed his second bag and passed it over to his waiting accomplice.  This person in turn placed the empty bag on his own shoulder before the pair moved closer to the Rodin bust.  It is then that they made the first of two attempts to remove the statue from its pedestal.  Stalled briefly, mid-theft, when a visitor arrived, the two waited patiently while first one, then two individuals moved into and out of the gallery. 

Once the potential witnesses had left the gallery, the man in the straw hat continued to stand lookout from inside the gallery while also keeping his eyes on the connecting rooms.  When the coast was finally clear, his baseball hat-wearing accomplice deftly removed the bust from its unalarmed position and quickly placed the sculpture in the bag passed to him earlier.  The pair then exited the Copenhagen museum separately, with the museum's guards and guests none the wiser.

Rodin Gallery of the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek Museum. 
Arrow pointing to the pedestal were the sculpture once was.

"Man with the Broken Nose" by Auguste Rodin 
Stolen from the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek Museum
on July 16, 2015
Yet, despite sharing security footage with news agencies and a request to the general public should anyone recognized the thieves, few viable leads developed.   Having reached a dead end police formally closed their investigation without a recovery in April 2016.

What are the chances of this sculpture being recovered?

Despite the many counterfeit Rodin sculptures which have polluted the market, buyers' enthusiasm for the pre-eminent sculptor of the Impressionist and Post-Impressionist era has not diminished and with time it is possible that this hot work of art might still bubble up on the art market.  In July 2015 Rodin's sculpture "Young Girl With a Serpent" (circa 1886), came up for auction at Christie's and was identified by staff working at Art Recovery International as an artwork stolen from a Beverly Hills couple's home 24 years earlier.

For now the curator's at the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek Museum have still to wait, very, very patiently.

August 3, 2019

Still Missing: Remembering the theft at the Sonobudoyo Museum


This blog post revisits the case of theft of the Sonobudoyo Museum in Yogyakarta, which occured on On August 11, 2010.  Nine years after the burglary, authorities have still found no traces of any of the stolen objects and the theft is considered to be the largest museum collection loss in the history of Indonesia. 

In total some eighty-seven pieces, many dating from the the 8th and 9th centuries from the Medang Empire or Mataram Kingdom, a Javanese Hindu–Buddhist kingdom that flourished between the 8th and 11th centuries, were stolen.   

On the evening before the theft was detected, Tuesday, August 10, 2010, the Sonobudoyo Museum was open until 10pm for a shortened version of Wayang Kulit, an Indonesian form of shadow puppetry, which described historic storylines executed by a dhalang, or puppet master. 

The theft however was not detected until the morning of Wednesday, August 11, 2010, when the museum opened.  Staffer Bambang Suprayogi, became suspicious when he discovered broken glass in his office adjacent to the collection storage location which in turn led to broken glass from three of the museum’s glass display cabinets.   

Examining the crime scene, police found that the thief or thieves may have entered through a broken window but failed to find any of the perpetrators' fingerprints.  Later it was determined that the alarm system and CCTV were not functional for an extended period of time. 

Some of the objects which were stolen include:

» a gold mask,
» 19 gold plates,
» a gold crown,
» numerous necklaces,
» and a Dhyani Buddha statue made of gold-plated bronze.

To date law enforcement investigations have not identified the culprits or recovered the stolen objects.  In 2011 investigators focused on security irregularities and suspicions converged on two museum employees however no charges have ever been formally brought.  Some believe the theft occurred over an extended period of time and not simply during one specific evening.  






April 24, 2019

4 of 6 individuals, believed to be tied to a Pink Panther operating cell, head to trail in the jewel heist at the Doge's Palace in Venice.


Following up on the museum jewel heist which occurred during the "Treasures of Mughals and Maharajas" exhibition at the Doge's Palace in Venice in January 2018.   

On January 3, 2018 jewelry worth an estimated €2m (£1.7m) was stolen from a display case at the museum palace of the Doge of Venice during a brazen, broad daylight, robbery which occurred shortly after ten in the morning on the last day of the exhibition. Taken during the theft were a pair of pear-shaped 30.2-carat diamond earrings in a platinum setting along with an equally weighty 10 carat, grade D diamond and ruby pendant brooch.  Both items belonged to His Highness Sheikh Hamad bin Abdullah Al-Thani, a member of the Qatari royal family, who is the first cousin of the current emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani.  

According to a report first published on Twitter by Mediaset Journalist Clemente Mimun, the Italian authorities had long suspected that the thieves behind the museum theft might have had inside help and were likely part of a criminal network made up of associates from the former Yugoslavia, sometimes referred to as "the Pink Panthers".  This network, working in small yet coordinated cells, are believed to be responsible for some 200+ robberies spanning 35 countries over the last two decades.  Some thefts, like that at the Doge's palace, have been discreet, 60-second affairs.  Others have been armed robberies or have involved automobiles being rammed into glass storefronts.  In total the thieves are believed to have made off with an estimated €500 million in jewels and gemstones, much of which has never been recovered.

But everyone knows that good police work sometimes requires patience. 

Following months of investigations by the mobile squad of the Venice Police Headquarters and the  Central Operational Service of the Central Anti-crime Directorate of the State Police, working alongside prosecutor Raffaele Incardona, six suspects were ultimately identified by the Italian authorities. Between November 7 and November 8, 2018 five of these men, including four Croatians and one Serb, were taken into custody in Croatia in a coordinated action involving Police Directorates in Zagreb and Istra based upon European arrest warrants issued for the suspect's related to their alleged involvement in the Venice museum theft. 

Five of those named by Italian authorities are believed to have visited the Doge's Palace in Venice on two test-run occasions prior to the actual theft.  Their first visit occurred on December 30, 2018 and their second on the day before the robbery.   Each time the team apparently tried to steal jewelry from the exhibition without success or were practicing in advance of the final event. 

Vinko Tomic
The brains behind the heist is purported to be 60-year-old Vinko Tomic, who goes by several other names, including Vinko Osmakčić and Juro Markelic.  No stranger to crime Tomic has already been connected with other million dollar hits.  Tomic has been implicated in the thefts of $1m worth of diamond watches in Honolulu, the heist of the $1m Millennium Necklace in Las Vegas, the filching of three rings, collectively worth £2m in London, and other high value jewel heists in Hong Kong, Monaco and Switzerland.  

When appearing in court in connection with one prior offense, Tomic made a statement to the presiding judge that he was a war veteran originally from the area of Bosnia and Herzegovina who was wounded in battle in 1995 and who fled, first to Croatia and later to Germany.  There,  unable to find work, he stated he eventually turned to a life of crime, though he managed to provide for his family and put his brother through school. 

For Italian law enforcement their biggest break in the case came as a result of a slip up on the part of the gang's leader.  According to chief prosecutor Bruno Cherchi, the Venice police chief Danilo Gagliardi, and Alessandro Giuliano, director of the Central Operational Service of the Central Anti-crime Directorate of the State Police, who spoke at a press conference on the investigation, officers identified a Facebook photo of Tomic wearing an identical ring to the one he was wearing when captured on CCTV footage at the Doge's Palace in Venice. 

Tomic's alleged accomplices to the Venice jewel theft are listed here:

Zvonko Grgić
Zvonko Grgić (age 43) whose now static Facebook profile lists him as an armed security contractor available for global security around the world. 

Želimir Grbavac
Želimir Grbavac, (age 48), who, according to Croatian news sources appears to have lived a discreet existence, operating an electrician business. 

Vladimir Đurkin (age 48), also Croatian.

and two Serbs, Dragan Mladenović (age 54) and Goran Perović (age 48).

Tomic, Grgić, and Grbavac were arrested on Wednesday, November 7, 2018 in Zagreb, while Đurkin was brought in for questioning in Istria. Mladenović was initially apprehended near the Serb-Croatian border and detained in Croatian police custody, only to escape while in police custody via a bathroom window on November 8, 2018.  How this happened while he was in police custody has been subject to controversy. 

On the basis of their European arrest warrants, three of the Croatians, Tomic, Grgić, and Grbavac were quickly transferred to Italy to stand trial. 

A month and a half after their arrest in Croatia, on December 23, 2019 Tomic, Grgić, and Grbavac made their initial appearance in Italian court before preliminary investigations judge David Calabria and maintained their right to remain silent.  Vinko Tomic was represented by lawyers Guido Simonetti and Simone Zancani.  Zvonko Grgić was represented by lawyer Marina Ottaviani and Želimir Grbavac was represented by lawyer Mariarosa Cozza.  

Fighting his extradition, Vladimir Đurkin was finally transferred to the Italian authorities on February 8, 2019.  The presiding judge has ruled that all four defendants will remain in custody at the prison of Santa Maria Maggiore in Venice pending the outcome of their upcoming trial. 

Serbian Dragan Mladenović and the final identified accomplice, Goran Perović, are believed to be in Serbia where they are untouchable by a European Arrest Warrant, a Convention which governs extradition requests between the 28 member states that make up the European Union (EU).  With no agreement between Italy and Serbia on judicial cooperation, there seems little chance that these two remaining accomplices will be extradited to Italy to stand trial.

And His Highness Sheikh Hamad bin Abdullah Al-Thani's jewels? 

International insurers Lloyd's of London has indemnified the Al Thani Foundation, as the owner of the stolen brooch and earrings and has payed out a claim of 8 million and 250 thousand dollars making the firm the owners of the jewellery, should they be recovered.  As a result the insurers will likely become a civil party in the future trial of the alleged perpetrators.

Unfortunately the "Treasures of Mughals and Maharajas" have never been found. 

By:  Lynda Albertson