Friday, June 01, 2018

Stolen Art Watch, Caravaggio Nativity Lives, Flamming June 2018


Former mobster may hold clue to recovery of stolen Caravaggio

The Nativity was stolen in 1969 and could have been hidden in Switzerland
Hopes of solving one of the worst art crimes in history were reignited last night, after Italian investigators announced they had received new information.
Nativity with St Francis and St Lawrence, a Caravaggio masterpiece that was stolen in 1969, could be being hidden in Switzerland after it fell into the hands of organised crime, the head of Italy’s anti-mafia commission said on Thursday.
The new lead on the whereabouts of the 17th-century painting – a depiction of the newborn Christ on a bed of straw, painted in the chiaroscuro technique – came from a former mobster-turned-informant, who revealed to Italian investigators that it had once been held by Gaetano Badalamenti, a Sicilian “boss of bosses” who was known as one of the ringleaders of an infamous heroin trafficking network in the US called the Pizza Operation.
Investigators announced this week that Gaetano Grado, the mafia informant, said Badalamenti had been put in touch with an art dealer in Switzerland after obtaining the work – also known as The Adoration – from another mafia boss. Badalamenti was arrested in 1984 under the leadership of the then US attorney in New York, Rudolph Giuliani, and was accused and convicted of helping to bring $1.65bn in heroin into the US. He died in a Massachusetts hospital in 2004.
The fate of The Nativity has been a subject of speculation for nearly half a century, ever since two criminals stole the painting out of San Lorenzo Oratory in Palermo, where they used razors to cut the painting out of its frame.
Among theories that have captured the imagination of art history buffs is that the painting – which was long believed to have been stolen by elements of the Sicilian mafia – may have been left to rot in a barn and was eaten by rats.
But this week’s news suggested it could yet be recovered.
Rosy Bindi, the head of Italy’s national anti-mafia commission, said new evidence suggested that The Nativity was intact and could be in Switzerland, after being sold to art traffickers there.
“We have collected enough evidence to launch a new investigation and ask the collaboration of foreign authorities, especially to the Swiss ones,” said Bindi. “We hope to find it and bring it back to its home in Palermo.”
The mafia has long been known to have an interest in stealing precious artwork and using it as a form of collateral.
Caravaggio’s masterpiece was thought to have been painted by the old master in Rome and later moved to Sicily.
Leoluca Orlando, the mayor of Palermo, who has helped transform the Sicilian capital from a mafia stronghold to a European capital of culture, said the theft of the painting had dealt a blow to the city at a time – in 1969 – when it was dominated by mobsters and godfathers.
“Today this city has changed and is demanding back everything the mafia took away from it,” he said. “Even getting back a small piece of it would be considered a victory.”

What’s the motive for museum thefts?

Two recent museum thefts can be taken to illustrate the thinking behind such crimes. One, in Nantes, saw thieves snatch a 16th-century solid gold reliquary containing the preserved heart of a French queen from the Thomas-Dobrée museum. The other, in Bath, involved the theft of Chinese jade and gold from the Museum of East Asian Art.
The Nantes theft was carried out in the night between 13 and 14 April, with the thieves breaking in through a window. Although the loss of the heart of Anne of Brittany, which had only gone back on display on the Tuesday of the preceding week, attracted the majority of attention, the thieves also took a range of gold coins and medals and a gilt sculpture of a Hindu deity – the latter presumably in the mistaken belief that it too was gold. This theft appears to be a prime example of opportunism. The return to display of the reliquary presumably drew the attention of the thieves and they then took the first available opportunity to take it, and other items that appeared valuable to them at the same time. Little planning was presumably carried out if amongst their haul of gold was a gilt sculpture of far lower financial value. The fact that the reliquary was subsequently buried just outside Saint Nazaire (a nearby town), from where it was recovered after police were led to it following two arrests, indicates that it is unlikely that the thieves had thought beyond the initial ‘smash and grab’ element of their crime and had not considered how to dispose of their haul.
In contrast – although superficially similar in that the thieves broke in through a window during the early hours of the morning – the theft from the Museum of East Asian Art in Bath on 17 April appears to have been highly targeted. The pieces taken seem to have been selected based on their quality and cultural significance, rather than simply their material, which ranged from jade to soapstone to zitan wood, or obvious financial value. The thieves made their selection of objects rapidly and fled the scene in under five minutes before the police could arrive, indicating that significant planning must have gone into the robbery. Again in contrast to the Nantes theft, as yet it appears that none of the material stolen has been recovered, nor have any arrests been made.
This is not the first time that a European museum has suffered from what appears to be a targeted theft of Chinese material. Similar thefts have taken place over the last decade in Durham, at the Fitzwilliam in Cambridge, and at the Château de Fontainebleau. This kind of crime appears to be carried out with a specific view to then selling the pieces stolen to the Chinese market where it is relatively easy to find a buyer, and the chances of a piece being identified are far lower than if it were offered to the Western art market.
Sadly, museums are particularly vulnerable to targeted thefts such as this. Their very nature, with publicly listed catalogues of their collections (the full collection of the Museum of East Asian Art is available online), and outreach programs to ensure that people are aware of their existence and holdings, means that for those who are seeking particular types of item and are prepared to secure them through illicit means they are almost a shop window for criminals. It is essential that museums resist the temptation to keep their collections private, but their public nature does mean that it is also essential to factor in security when planning exhibitions, building works, and storage.
Equally, museums remain vulnerable to opportunistic theft of pieces on display such as appears to have been the case in Nantes. It is rare, but criminals see the pieces within museums as valuable, and thus worth stealing if an opportunity to do so arises. As in this case though, they rarely have a plan for how to turn that value into cash, and thus end up hiding the items when it becomes clear that they are not as easy to fence as they might have hoped.
Ultimately, for the general public, historians, and museums themselves, the outcomes of these thefts are often sadly indistinguishable: the loss of items integral to their collections. Tackling museum theft is dependent upon financial resources for security and policing, but for museums, especially those with lower budgets, an increased awareness of the types of items likely to be liable to targeted theft, and of the risks of opportunistic theft prompted by publicity, is well worth keeping in mind.

Want your stolen portrait back? Bring us £100,000 cash: What gangsters told Francis Bacon after taking his famous likeness, painted by Lucian Freud, from Berlin art gallery 30 years ago

  • The masterpiece Portrait Of Francis Bacon disappeared 30 years ago from Berlin
  • Mail on Sunday can reveal that Bacon received a ransom demand a year later
  • Barry Joule, Bacon's close friend and neighbour in London's South Kensington, has now revealed that the artist received a phone call in his studio from 'a tough-sounding East End man, probably an associate of the Krays' 
It is one of the art world's great unsolved mysteries – the daring theft of Lucian Freud's portrait of fellow artist Francis Bacon.
The masterpiece, Portrait Of Francis Bacon, disappeared without trace after it was removed from its wire frame and spirited out of Berlin's National Gallery 30 years ago.
But The Mail on Sunday can reveal that Bacon received a ransom demand a year later in 1989 and was apparently poised to recover the work – only for the operation to be wrecked by a police blunder.
Portrait Of Francis Bacon was spirited out of Berlin's National Gallery 30 years ago. Pictured: Francis Bacon and Lucien Freud
Portrait Of Francis Bacon was spirited out of Berlin's National Gallery 30 years ago. Pictured: Francis Bacon and Lucien Freud
Barry Joule, Bacon's close friend and neighbour in London's South Kensington, has now revealed that the artist received a phone call in his studio from 'a tough-sounding East End man, probably an associate of the Krays'.
During the 1960s, Bacon fraternised with gangsters, among them Ronnie Kray.
Joule recalls: '[The gangster] told him, 'If you want to get yer face picture back, get £100K together and wait by the phone for a call at noon exactly.' '
Francis called Joule who drove his black Porsche to pick up Bacon from his studio and take him to his flat. Even though he didn't own the painting, Bacon then panicked and stuffed £140,000 into a satchel, reappearing 'sweating and nervous'.
They argued over whether to contact police but Bacon was 'dead set against doing that' because he still felt aggrieved by a 1968 drugs bust involving his then lover, George Dyer.
People look towards the wild west-style wanted poster showing the reward for the return of the portrait of the late British artist Francis Bacon in downtown Berlin June in 2001
People look towards the wild west-style wanted poster showing the reward for the return of the portrait of the late British artist Francis Bacon in downtown Berlin June in 2001
Instead he alerted the head of security at the Tate gallery, which had bought the picture in 1952 from Freud and had loaned it to the German museum in 1988 when it was stolen.
Then they went back to the studio to await the noon call, but it never came. Leaving the studio several hours later the two men spotted 'three undercover policemen' in a Ford Fiesta. Joule said they all had their 'heads buried in newspapers'.
Convinced the gangsters must also have spotted them, Bacon shouted angrily at the officers.
For weeks afterwards, Bacon 'remained paranoid that the Krays and associates would be 'out to get me for grassing to the police',' said Joule, who added: 'If it wasn't for policemen sitting in their car right outside the building, Francis might have got the stolen painting back.' In a recorded interview with Joule three months after the ransom blunder, Bacon spoke of 'how much the police have gone down in my estimation'.
Bacon (pictured) 'remained paranoid that the Krays and associates would be 'out to get me for grassing to the police'
Bacon (pictured) 'remained paranoid that the Krays and associates would be 'out to get me for grassing to the police'
The 7in x 5in oil on copper was one of the few Freud paintings Bacon really liked, so much so he kept a photograph of it in his kitchen.
Freud later plastered Berlin with 'Wanted' posters of the image, offering a £100,000 reward for its recovery so he could include it in a retrospective of his work.
Although the Tate has never claimed the insurance money, because it has hoped to be reunited with the painting, Bacon, who died in 1992, was more pessimistic. 'Most likely it was burnt,' he says on the recording.
The Tate continues to list the painting in its catalogue, simply noting 'not on display'.
In 2004, Joule gave the Tate 1,200 Bacon sketches. They were then valued at about £20million.
He kept about 120 sketches, and he is lending some to an exhibition in Italy, at the Foundation Sorrento museum, in Sorrento, which opens today and runs until October 21.

Full extent of burglary at Bath’s Museum of East Asian Art revealed

With the value of Chinese antiquities on the rise, police suspect the items removed were stolen to order

Some of the objects stolen from the Bath Museum of East Asian Art Avon and Somerset Police
A complete list of the 48 objects stolen from Bath’s Museum of East Asian Art has now been released, following a burglary on 17 April. These details reveal just how serious the loss has been. The stolen items include 22 jades, 10 ceramics and a Tang (618-907AD) marriage mirror. Three other objects were damaged, but not taken.
The burglary occurred at 1.20am, when four masked men broke into the museum, which is in a restored Georgian townhouse in Bath, in south-west England. They entered through a first-floor window, smashing seven display cases.
A police spokesman commented that “due to the items stolen and the speed of the burglary we suspect this to be a targeted attack with the artefacts possibly stolen to order”. The financial value of Chinese antiquities has risen greatly in recent few years due to growing demand in China. The stolen Bath objects could already have been smuggled out to the Far East.
Immediately after the Bath theft, details of six major items were released: a set of 14 gold belt plaques, a jade monkey, a jade sculpture of mandarin ducks, an inlaid wooden box, a soapstone figure of the scholar Dongfang Shuo and a Jizhou stoneware vase. Information on the other 42 pieces has now been released.
In 2012, the Museum of East Asian Art was targeted by three thieves while the building was open to visitors. An alarm sounded and the men fled.
The latest theft has been particularly distressing for Brian McElney, a retired lawyer from Hong Kong who moved near Bath and set up the museum in 1993. With 2,000 items, it is the UK’s only museum dedicated to East and South-East Asian art.
Although the museum reopened on 5 May, the first floor remains closed. A fundraising appeal has been launched to help with the costs of replacing the damaged cases and reopening the display.

Police seek man in connection with Masterpiece fair jewellery theft

The Metropolitan Police are trying to trace the whereabouts of a man wanted in connection with a high-value theft of jewellery at last year’s ‘Masterpiece London’ fair.
Masterpiece fair jewellery 2342NEDIa 09-05-18.jpg
Police have released this image of a man they are trying to trace in connection the theft of three pieces of jewellery at last year’s ‘Masterpiece London’ fair.
They have released an image of the man they believe to be Vinko Osmakcic, a Croatian national thought to be responsible for a number of high-value diamond thefts throughout Europe.
At the 2017 Masterpiece fair at the Royal Hospital Chelsea, three rings were stolen with a combined value of over £2m from the stand of Switzerland-based jewellery dealer Boghossian.
Masterpiece fair london
The ‘Masterpiece London’ fair takes place annually in Chelsea.
Det Sgt Chris Taylor from Kensington and Chelsea CID, who is leading the investigation, said: “This was a well-planned and audacious theft committed in the middle of a busy art fair.
"We are re-releasing the image of Mr Osmakcic in an attempt to trace him. It is highly likely that Mr Osmakcic may be out of the UK, possibly in Europe. He may also be known by the following names: Vinko Tomic or Juro Markelic.”
The items taken were a cushion-shaped diamond ring, a vivid yellow cushion-shaped diamond ring encased in smaller oval and round-shaped diamonds, an emerald-cut diamond ring with purple and pink stones, and four pear-shaped diamonds. All three rings have diamond-encrusted bands.

Six-day remand for suspected ‘Pink Panther’ member

A man, 48, suspected to be a member of the international ‘Pink Panther’ gang, was remanded  for six days by the Limassol District Court on Saturday.
On Friday, police arrested the man from Montenegro for armed robbery on a Limassol jewellery shop almost ten years ago.  An international arrest warrant was also issued for a second man regarding the same case.
Authorities issued a European arrest warrant for the 48-year-old suspected of robbing €212,000 worth of jewellery from the shop on February 28, 2009.
The man was initially arrested in Spain, on March 1, and following the cooperation of the Spanish authorities, Cyprus’ Interpol, and the Limassol police, he was brought to the island on Friday afternoon, where he was arrested.
Police are continuing their investigations.
Interpol ran an operation on the Pink Panthers gang from 2007 to 2016, and according to the international authority the network is suspected to have carried out approximately 380 armed robberies from 1999 to 2015.
The organisation is believed to have targeted high-end jewellery stores, and the combined value of their robberies is estimated to have been approximately €334 million.

Stolen £1m painting returned to owners

British Art & Artists - Painting - Stanley Spencer - Cookham - 1932
Sir Stanley Spencer at work in his studio in Cookham (PA)

A £1 million painting stolen six years ago has been returned to its owners after it was discovered in a drug dealer's den.
The work, by Sir Stanley Spencer and titled Cookham from Englefield, was taken from the Stanley Spencer Gallery, Berkshire, in 2012.
Its whereabouts remained a mystery until police arrested Harry Fisher, 28, in June last year after finding a kilogram of cocaine and £30,000 in cash in his Mercedes.
Officers discovered the artwork under a bed next to three kilograms of cocaine and 15,000 ecstasy tablets when they searched his flat in Kingston-upon-Thames, west London.
A further raid on his family home in Fulham found more Class A drugs, making a total street value of £450,000, and £40,000 in cash.
Fisher was jailed for eight years and eight months at Kingston Crown Court in October, having pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply Class A drugs, acquiring criminal property and handling stolen goods, Scotland Yard said.
His passenger at the time of arrest, Zak Lal, 32, of Rochester, Kent, was jailed for five years and eight months after admitting conspiracy to supply Class A drugs, acquiring criminal property and possession of an offensive weapon, police said.
Stolen painting discovery
Jailed: Harry Fisher (left) and Zak Lal (Met Police/PA)
The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) said the painting's owners, who were "devastated" at the loss, were finally reunited with the artwork last month.
Arts Minister Michael Ellis said: "Spencer is one our most renowned painters and a true great of the 20th century. It is wonderful that this story has had a happy ending and the painting has been returned to its rightful owners."
Stolen painting discovery
The £1 million stolen painting by Sir Stanley Spencer (Met Police/PA)
Detective Constable Sophie Hayes, of the Metropolitan Police's art and antiques unit, said: "The art and antiques unit was delighted to assist with the recovery and return of this important painting.
"The circumstances of its recovery underline the links between cultural heritage crime and wider criminality.
"The fact that the painting was stolen five years before it was recovered did not hinder a prosecution for handling stolen goods, demonstrating the Met will pursue these matters wherever possible, no matter how much time has elapsed."
Described by the Stanley Spencer Gallery gallery as one of "our greatest British artists", Sir Stanley often used the Berkshire village of Cookham as inspiration for his work during a 45-year career.
He died in 1959.

Tuesday, May 01, 2018

Stolen Art Watch, 2018, May The Force Be With Your Heart

800-year-old stolen saint’s heart returned to Dublin cathedral

People observe the heart of St Laurence O’Toole at Christ Church Cathedral in Dublin (Tom Honan/PA)
People observe the heart of St Laurence O’Toole at Christ Church Cathedral in Dublin
The 800-year-old heart of Dublin’s patron saint has been recovered by police, six years after it was stolen from a cathedral in the city.
The relic – the heart of St Laurence O’Toole – was taken from Christ Church Cathedral in 2012.
It has no monetary value but is “a priceless treasure” for the church, the cathedral’s Dean, the Very Reverend Dermot Dunne, said.
The theft of the relic, which had been kept in a wooden heart-shaped box and placed within a small iron-barred cage, sparked a six-year investigation by Gardai.
It will be presented to the Archbishop of Dublin, the Most Reverend Dr Michael Jackson on Thursday evening by Garda Assistant Commissioner Pat Leahy.
Archbishop Jackson thanked those who had helped recover the relic, and described the return of the heart as a joyful moment for the people of the city.
He said: “The return of the heart of Laurence O’Toole to Christ Church Cathedral brings great joy to the people of Dublin as Dubliners.
“For those of us associated with the life of the dioceses, it brings again to the fore the close relationship between Glendalough and Dublin, a relationship of more than 800 years.
People line up to observe the heart of St Laurence O'Toole (Tom Honan/PA) 
People line up to observe the heart of St Laurence O’Toole
“Laurence left the monastic city of Glendalough of which he was Abbot to become Archbishop of Dublin, hence cementing a vibrant relationship that continues unabated to this day.”
Rev Dunne said he was “delighted” at the relic’s return.
He said: “I said at the time it was stolen that the relic has no economic value but it is a priceless treasure that links the cathedral’s present foundation with its founding father, St Laurence O’Toole.”
Assistant Commissioner Leahy commended officers who he said had “kept their radars on and their minds open in this ongoing investigation”.
Gardai said no arrests have been made.
There will now be a shrine to St Laurence, who died in 1180, in the cathedral, the church said, noting that they had looked at their security since the theft and continue to have regular reviews.

Stolen Art Surrendered After Criminal Group’s Heist Decades Ago

The Federal Bureau of Investigation recovered a prized painting from a decades-old art heist in New York City, thanks to the guilty conscience of an aging organized crime figure, the agency announced.

The painting, a Chagall from 1911 titled “Othello and Desdemona” was stolen in 1988 along with several other invaluable artifacts and artworks including those of Renoir, Hopper, and Picasso.

The heist was executed over the course of several days; the thieves entered the 16th-floor loft of Ernest and Rose Heller—wealthy art collectors who were in Aspen for their annual two-month vacation-- and left without a single trace. No arrests were ever made, and none of the artworks have been recovered until now.
A 72-year old, terminally-ill man with ties to Bulgarian criminal groups contacted the FBI’s Art Crime Unit in Washington, DC to hand over the painting and clear his conscience before his death, according to an FBI report.
The unnamed man claimed to have been contracted to sell the painting in the early nineties and once he found an interested buyer, the person who contracted him—one of thieves-- tried to cut him out of the deal. In retaliation, he stole the painting and stored it in his attic in Maryland, which police found to be kept in a makeshift paper box titled “Misc High School Artwork.”
At the time of the theft, the painting was worth US$750,000. In 2018, it’s value is estimated to be well over the million-dollar mark.
At one point, the 72-year old attempted to sell the painting to a gallery without proof of ownership.
“The gallery refused to accept the painting,” the press release states.
“They suggested that the individual contact law enforcement, which resulted in the FBI obtaining custody of the painting.”
The man who contracted the 72-year old was one of the masterminds of the heist. He had a degree in fine arts and worked as a superintendent in the building that was burglarized. He was later convicted of similar crimes and is now in prison.
The statute of limitations on the heist expired years ago and no charges are being filed against the known thief or the man who surrendered the painting. The artwork will be returned to the Heller estate.

Dutch Old Master stolen by Nazis to go to auction

It is due to goes on auction on July 4 in London with a pre-sale estimate of £1.5-2.5 million.

A Dutch Old Master painting stolen by the Nazis towards the end of World War II is to be auctioned after it was discovered hanging in the official residence of the Lord Mayor of London.
The Oyster Meal by Jacob Ochtervelt was put on show in the Amsterdam offices of auction house Sotheby’s.
It is due to goes on auction on July 4 in London with a pre-sale estimate of £1.5-2.5 million.
Charlotte Bischoff van Heemskerck recounts how the painting was recovered
Charlotte Bischoff van Heemskerck, the 97-year-old daughter of the Arnhem children’s doctor who originally owned the painting, says that as a child she loved the light blue dress and fur-trimmed red coat worn by the girl being offered a plate of oysters by her suitor.
Ochtervelt’s oil on canvas masterpiece, from 1664-65, shows a man presenting a plate of oysters to a warmly-lit, seated young woman.
“I loved it,” Ms Bischoff van Heemskerck said. “I was a young girl; I liked her dress, I liked her coat with the white fur and the way he offered her the oysters.”
Ms Bischoff van Heemskerck was reunited with the painting last year at a ceremony in London, now she has decided to sell it to pass on the proceeds to the children of her siblings.
After the war, the painting changed hands several times before the family tracked it down.
It resurfaced in the mid-1950s at a gallery in the German city of Duesseldorf. It was later bought by an American diplomat before British property developer Harold Samuel bought it in 1971 and later bequeathed it to the City of London Corporation.
Ms Bischoff van Heemskerck said tracking down the missing art was not a priority in the immediate aftermath of the war, as her father sought to re-establish his children’s hospital.
“My father said, ‘we won’t talk about the missing things’,” she said. “We will just live again.”

New York judge awards Egon Schiele art to Holocaust heirs

A New York judge has awarded two Nazi-looted drawings to the heirs of an Austrian Holocaust victim.
The drawings - Woman Hiding Her Face and Woman in a Black Pinafore by Egon Schiele - will go to the heirs of Fritz Grunbaum, killed in Dachau concentration camp in 1941.
The Nazis confiscated Grunbaum's 449-piece art collection when he was arrested in 1938.
London-based art dealer Richard Nagy had claimed a legal title to the works.
He had exhibited the drawings at a 2015 art show in New York, where the heirs discovered the art was up for sale.
Mr Nagy said he had bought them legally. But the Manhattan state court ruled against him, citing the 2016 Holocaust Expropriated Art Recovery (Hear) Act.
Image copyright Egon Schiele/Leopold Museum
Image caption Egon Schiele (1890-1918), depicted here in a self-portrait, was an Austrian figurative painter
The act extended the statute of limitations for making claims on Nazi-stolen art to six years after its "actual discovery".
Raymond Dowd, a lawyer for the Grunbaum heirs - Timothy Reif, David Fraenkel and Milos Vavra - argued that the lost works were not discovered by his clients until they noticed they were up for sale at the art fair.
After the ruling, Mr Dowd praised the decision for moving "a step closer" to recovering art taken in "the largest mass theft in history".

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The case follows a failed attempt by Milos Vavra and Mr Dowd in 2005 to win restitution for another Schiele drawing from Grunbaum's collection.
The court in that case ruled in favour of Boston businessman who owned the work, on the grounds that too much time had passed since the heirs had made their claim.

Thieves escape with €2.2m gold artwork after 220kph chase

Thieves smashed their way into an art gallery to steal a 2.2 million euro artwork before escaping police by fleeing at 220 kilometres an hour down the wrong side of a highway with their lights out.
The burglary broke through 5cm thick reinforced glass using some kind of battering ram in order to reach the piece, called "Golden Natural Chaos" which is made from 45kg of 18 karat gold.
The entire operation took just four minutes. A neighbour of the gallery in Knokke, Belgium captured the getaway car being loaded up after being awoken by the alarm.
Artist Arne Quinze who took more than 2 years to make the work, told Euronews he was stunned and devastated because he had invested so much - both financially and artistically in its creation.
"When it was finished I remember the team went silent. Not just because they were proud but because of the feeling created by the piece. The piece made us," he said. "It's impossible to make that piece again."
"Now it's a race. Like every piece of art it's impossible to sell so they will melt it down for the gold," he added.
Police were on the scene within around five minutes, according to a spokesman for the artist, but were unable to recover the work despite a long car chase.
The artwork, which was originally made in Belgium as part of a collaboration with precious metals manufacturer Heimerle+Meule has toured the world, passing through China, the US and France before returning to its homeland.
The scene of the crime

Chinese antiquities stolen in raid on Bath museum

Haul includes precious gold and jade artefacts, which police say may have been stolen to order

UPDATE: This article was amended to include comment from Vernon Rapley
Police have issued an appeal for witnesses after four masked men broke into a museum in south-west England and stole precious jade and gold artefacts as well as many other items.
The raid on the Museum of East Asian Art in Bath took place at around 1.20am on Tuesday 17 April.
Zitan wood covered box with inlays (18th century) Avon and Somerset Constabulary
Witnesses saw the thieves smash a first-floor window to enter the museum. The four men then broke into display cabinets and removed numerous objects, according to a statement on the website of Avon and Somerset Police.
The break-in follows an attempted robbery at the same museum six years ago, when three men tried to steal items during opening hours. On that occasion, nothing was taken and the intruders escaped before police arrived.
This time, the thieves removed objects including a jade monkey holding a peach from the Yuan or early Ming dynasty (13th-15th century); a carving of jade mandarin ducks with lotus flowers from the Qing dynasty (probably 18th century); a set of 14 gold belt plaques decorated with flowers from the early Ming dynasty (around 1500 or earlier); a Jizhou stoneware vase with painted floral and insect designs from the Southern Song dynasty (12th-13th century); a soapstone figure of the scholar Dongfang Shuo by the stone carver Yang Yuxuan from the late Ming or early Qing dynasty (1630-1680); and a zitan wood covered box with various inlays from the Qing dynasty (18th century).
The men were then seen fleeing the museum in a dark SUV. Police arrived at the scene five minutes after receiving a phone call from a member of the public. They are now investigating the crime scene, conducting door-to-door enquiries and reviewing local CCTV footage.
A museum employee tells The Art Newspaper that the thieves had taken “many more” objects than those listed as stolen on the police website. Museum staff are now working on compiling a full list of the seized items and will publish this on their website “as soon as possible”, the employee says. The museum will remain closed for the next few weeks and “hopes to reopen by 5 May” for its new exhibition [A Quest for Wellness: Contemporary Art by Zhang Yanzi], she adds.
“Due to the items stolen and the speed of the burglary, we suspect this to be a targeted attack, with the artefacts possibly stolen to order. These items range in monetary value, but their cultural significance is priceless,” Detective Sergeant Matthew Reed said in a statement.
Vernon Rapley, the director of Cultural Heritage Protection & Security at the Victoria & Albert Museum and the chair of the National Museum Security Group, says: “We were all saddened to hear about of the theft from the Museum of East Asian Art in Bath, I know that museums across the UK will do all that they can to assist in recovering the property and hopefully bringing the offenders to justice. It is concerning to witness a crime targeting jade and gold in a museum, after a period of relative quiet within the UK. The NMSG monitors crime patterns across the UK and Europe, and has been keeping a cautious eye on events targeting gold and other precious goods. We very much hope that this crime isn’t the start of a pattern of offending.”

The astonishing £100,000 haul burglars stole from Cheltenham flat - including Faberge eggs and Rolex watch

The list of stolen goods is quite incredible - and the owner is devastated
The hunt is one for two Faberge eggs and a Faberge bowl after they were stolen from a flat in Cheltenham.
David Sartori was devastated to return to his home in Evesham Road and find the eggs had been stolen in a burglary. The thieves also took a whole host of other items and in all the haul was worth more than £100,000.
It included a Faberge 24k gold and royal blue enamel miniature bowl, valued at £30,000.
The Faberge bowl that David most wants to get back
The Faberge bowl that David most wants to get back
That was given to David as a gift by his late grandfather, Charles Hayes.
The 39-year-old, who works as a garden designer, is desperate to get all of the items back but the bowl is of particular sentimental value to him.
He said: “I wish I had been here and could have done more. I feel really upset about this.
“My enjoyment is to come home and look at my collection.
“As sad as that sounds, I love it. It’s my thing.
“It’s the fact that one day I walked in and my treasures had gone.”

The full list of items stolen, valued at £100,000+

One of the precious Faberge eggs stolen from a Cheltenham flat
  • Faberge Antique Russian Imperial Silver Letter Opener – £4,310
  • Asprey solid silver pill boxes – x3 £1200-1500
  • Asprey cuff links - £300.00
  • Collection of blue enamel and solid silver pill boxes – x8 in all - total £2/2500
  • Solid silver writing pen - £800-1000
  • Enamel green and silver Art Deco pill boxes – £500
  • Asprey blue enamel miniature carriage clock plus leather case – £6500/7000
  • Collection of solid silver pill boxes – x5 in total - £500ish
  • A solid silver miniature settee and two French chairs – £1000
  • A solid crown & silver horn with red silk tassel - £800
  • Gold Fabergé egg. Inside a porcelain rose bud housing gold chain and diamond pendent. - £5000
  • A 24k gold and royal blue enamel miniature bowl. Faberge. - £30,000
  • Gold Fabergé egg from glass display case in hall way. – £3500/5000
  • A pair of Georgian solid silver boxes plus tortoise shell and solid silver box - £600/800
  • A mauve porcelain and diamond set pill box. Stamped Asprey - £3000
  • A collection of coal port porcelain for a Tiffany and Co exhibition c 1890 – x3 Pieces - £1800/2000
  • A collection of enamel and solid silver or gilt miniature picture frames. - x6 pieces. - £3500
  • A 24k gold zodiac Pisces Fabergé egg. Royal blue enamel front panel with 24k gold star sign and a aquamarine stone inside egg - £3,000
  • Polaroid television/dvd - £350.00
  • Watch box housing a Gucci dress watch - £800
  • Rolex submarina - £8000
  • X2 Armani dress watches - £1000
  • X2 Tissot watches - £1500.00
  • X1 Diesel watch - £200
  • The watch box they were housed in - £500
  • X1 large Creed Aventus - £300
  • X1 White Company Aspen - £70.00
  • X1 large Creed Tweed - £250.00
  • X1 Chanel Sport - £70.00
  • X1 invictus large - £90.00
  • IPad – £600
  • Lap Top – £400
  • Louis Vuitton duffle bag - £1000
  • A pair of Gucci Aviator sunglasses - £350 A pair of Prada sunglasses. - £400 A pair of Gucci sports sun glasses - £300 (All boxes left behind) A Gucci wash bag £400
  • Grandfather’s war medals
  • 5 gold full sovereigns £1500
  • Apple iPod
  • A brand new iPhone 7
  • A baby blue Nintendo DS plus charger and games in a black material holder - £250
  • One 18 ct gold money clip
  • A Gucci monogram belt with polished silver buckle stamped Gucci - £300
  • A Gucci leather grey snakeskin belt unopened stamped Gucci on buckle -£300
  • A pair of black Emporio Armani aviator sunglasses unopened unwrapped - £350
  • Two solid silver and tortoise shell writing pens - in a distinctive Buckingham Palace black velvet box - £500
  • X3 Lalique glass sculptures £800/1000
  • X3 Gucci candles unopened and unwrapped - £300
  • A silver Gucci bamboo bracelet - £400
  • X2 antique silver pocket watches
  • A black Mount Blanc writing pen - £600
  • A silver gilt grape stand and grape scissors - £800/£1000
  • A miniature solid silver brief case - Tiffany and Co - £300
  • A miniature silver vase 2” tall - Tiffany and Co - £300.00
  • A Louis Vuitton Passport Wallet - £200
  • A collection of miniature solid silver and enamel animals. British hall marks. A pheasant.... three pink pigs, a peacock, a giraffe, a leopard and a large lion - £2500 minimum
  • A collection of 14 Herend porcelain animals with a distinctive fishnet pattern some pink, 24k gold, blue, green. Some will have an Aspreys red and gilt sticker on their bases - £2500 minimum
  • A Gucci silver chain with two dog tags attached both stamped in tiny letters Gucci - £250
  • An antique walnut cuff link box - £200
  • A box contains 20 silver 1 Troy ounce bullion bars - silver - £600
  • Two solid silver cigarette cases - £500
He added that it had taken him 30 years to build up his collection and he was grateful that about 60 per cent of it had not been stolen during the March 26 burglary. Items that were not taken included seven more Faberge products, including eggs.
David’s eggs are not any of the 50 that are famous across the world and can change hands for millions of pounds. Those were made by Faberge for the Imperial Russian royal family between 1885 and 1916.
But his are, nonetheless, original Faberge eggs and are very valuable and collectable.
One of the precious Faberge eggs stolen from a Cheltenham flat
One of the precious Faberge eggs stolen from a Cheltenham flat
The haul stolen from David’s flat, which he has been restoring for about 18 months, included valuable watches, jewellery and antiques. Medals belonging to his grandfather were also stolen.
One egg is gold with a porcelain rosebud housing a gold chain and diamond pendant. The other is a gold Zodiac Pisces egg which has a royal blue enamel front panel, a gold star sign and an aquamarine stone inside.
Other pieces are jewellery and watches from Rolex, Chanel, Tiffany, Asprey and Gucci. A valuable Asprey blue enamel miniature carriage clock and leather case was also stolen.
The Louis Vuitton bag that was stolen in the burglary and which the thieves may have put other items from the collection into
The Louis Vuitton bag that was stolen in the burglary and which the thieves may have put other items from the collection into
David began collecting as a child with the help of his grandfather and that is one of the reasons he is so fond of the pieces.
He added: “I want everything back. I don’t want a cheque, I want them back.
“The bowl is completely unique. There’s one in the whole world and that’s it.”

Tuesday, April 03, 2018

Stolen Art Watch, Hatton Garden, Seed Sowed, NZ Ram-Raid, Antiquities Spotlight, As Nazi-Looted Painting Goes To Auction, Uderzo Drawings surface

Hatton Garden 'mastermind' is the son of 'genius' Cambridge biophysicist: 'Basil the ghost's' father pioneered study of DNA as aunt slams claims against him as 'outlandish'

  • 'Final' Hatton Garden suspect is the son of a top Cambridge biophysicist
  • Police say they found jewellery and gold at his north London flat 
  • He appeared in court yesterday and his lawyer said he is a jeweller
  • His aunt has insisted he is not behind the raid and the charges are 'outlandish'
The man alleged to be the mastermind behind the Hatton Garden jewel heist is the son of a Cambridge scientist, it was revealed last night.
Michael Seed is accused of being 'Basil the Ghost', the only burglar who evaded capture following the notorious £25million raid over the Easter weekend of 2015.
He was arrested on Tuesday at a run-down council flat less than two miles from Hatton Garden vault with what is alleged to be property from the burglary. 
Police say they found a large amount of jewellery, precious stones and gold ingots. 
Michael Seed, a jeweller suspected of being the final member of the Hatton Garden gang,  appeared in court today
Michael Seed, a jeweller suspected of being the final member of the Hatton Garden gang,  appeared in court today
A court sketch of Seed, who was remanded in custody until he can appear before a judge next month
The £25million raid on the safety deposit box firm was one of the most audacious in British criminal history
A court sketch of Seed, who was remanded in custody until he can appear before a judge next month. The £25million raid on the safety deposit box firm (right) was one of the most audacious in British criminal history
Officers have spent three years hunting the masked figure seen on CCTV walking away from the raid with a bin bag full of cash, gems, gold and jewellery.
A man known as 'Basil' was seen using a key to enter the building and is believed to have disabled the alarm system.
Detectives believe that 'Basil' was one of only two raiders who crawled into the vault to ransack deposit boxes after a hole was bored in a basement wall. He stayed on the wanted list as six accomplices were jailed for up to seven years each.
Yesterday, grey-haired Seed, 57, appeared in court on two charges related to the raid. 
The son of biophysicist John Seed - who taught himself to degree level before taking a PhD at Christ Church, Cambridge - his background is a far cry from that of the mainly elderly working-class members of the gang nicknamed the 'diamond wheezers'.
Seed himself is understood to have studied sciences at the University of Nottingham. 
Seed's aunt Kathleen Seed last night questioned whether he was involved in the raid. She told The Times: 'The idea of him being a safebreaker is outlandish.'
A CCTV still shows a Hatton Garden raider said to have got away after the jewellery raid
A CCTV still shows a Hatton Garden raider said to have got away after the jewellery raid
The official value of the record-breaking haul is £13.7million, but police suspect it could be as high as £25million as much of the cash, foreign currency, gems and gold in the underground vault was never declared by the owners.
Facing charges of conspiracy to burgle and conspiracy to conceal or disguise criminal property, Seed appeared before City of Westminster magistrates in a green jacket, blue checked shirt and jeans and spoke only to confirm his name, age, address and nationality.
His barrister, James Reilly, suggested he would deny the offences, saying: 'He works as a jeweller - he fashions jewellery. 
He had no knowledge or belief of involvement with the burglary.' Prosecutor Philip Stott said: 'The charges relate to the burglary of the Hatton Garden Safe Deposit company over Easter weekend in 2015.
'Mr Seed was arrested and inside [the] address was a large number of items of jewellery, precious stones and golden ingots. It's an amount consistent with Mr Seed having been involved in the burglary.
'There are covert audio recordings of others involved, describing the role of others in the team, who refer to [an accomplice] by the pseudonym Basil.'
Officers from Scotland Yard's Flying Squad raided Seed's flat in Islington this week
Officers from Scotland Yard's Flying Squad raided Seed's flat in Islington last week
Neighbours in the block of flats said Seed seemed like a nice man but was not well known
Neighbours in the block of flats said Seed seemed like a nice man but was not well known
There was no application for bail and after chief magistrate Emma Arbuthnot remanded him in custody Seed, who had followed the proceedings attentively, smiled, nodded and bowed to the bench before being led away.
Later, on the Mersey Estate in Islington, rubber gloves and large bottles of chemicals could be seen in the kitchen of the small flat where he was arrested. 
Neighbours said Seed was a 'pleasant man' but suspected he was down on his luck because he wore the same clothes every day.
A caretaker on the estate said: 'He was Mr Invisible, Mr Anonymous, but he was very pleasant and would always say good morning.' 
Seed's father has been dead for some years while his 90-year-old mother still lives in Cambridge. He has three siblings. 
His aunt Kathleen Seed, 83, who lives in Nottingham, said: 'The thought of Michael being a bank robber is so remote, I would find that so highly unlikely.'
The hole the gang drilled through the wall of a vault beneath London's diamond quarter
The hole the gang drilled through the wall of a vault beneath London's diamond quarter
The scene inside the vault after the raid took place in over the Easter weekend three years ago
The scene inside the vault after the raid took place in over the Easter weekend three years ago

Art gallery ram-raid: No sign of paintings one year on

It's been a year since robbers ram raided an Auckland Auctioneers and fled with two valuable paintings by artist Gottfried Lindauer.
The 'Chieftainess Ngatai-Raure' and 'Chief Ngatai-Raure' (inset) were stolen from the International Art Centre in Parnell.
The 'Chieftainess Ngatai-Raure' and 'Chief Ngatai-Raure' (inset) were stolen from the International Art Centre in Parnell on 1 April last year. Photo: RNZ / Laura Tupou
However their whereabouts, and who exactly was behind the heist remain a mystery.
In the early hours of Saturday morning, 1 April last year, a window in the front of the International Art Gallery shattered as a car backed into the building.
Alarms went off but by the time people arrived two 1884 Gottfried Lindauer paintings known as Chieftainess Ngatai-Raure and Chief Ngatai-Raure were gone.
A year on the centre's director Richard Thomson said they were still no closer to finding them.
"There's no news about the paintings... For us it's still as big a mystery as it is to a lot of people."
It took several months for the $50,000 to $100,000 worth of damage to the building to be fully repaired and security measures have been ramped up.
They will be on show this week as works from Dame Kiri Te Kanawa's personal collection go up for auction, including three major paintings by Charles Frederick Goldie.
"There's a couple of really serious things that we've done that we've talked to the insurance company about.
"We've got 24 hour monitoring on foot, so after hours we've got an actual guard on at the moment until the auction is finished. The security is obviously quite high."
Mr Thomson said he believed the paintings hadn't left the country.
"A lot of people say 'oh they'll be overseas hanging on a wall in Shanghai or somewhere' but I really believe that's unlikely ... Everyone's speculating and who knows, they might just turn up. They could turn up in half an hour, they could turn up this time next year, we just don't know."
However, he said it wasn't something he'd like to dwell on.
"That's not how I live my life. The only person dwelling on that situation is the people that took them. They'll be living in fear and they'll have problems so their day will come."
Art historian and art crime expert Penelope Jackson said the art community was more aware now and it demonstrated to the country that New Zealand wasn't immune to these sorts of crimes.
"This terrible event had all the ingredients, all the sensational ingredients really, that you might get in a movie. Night time, smash and grab, highly valuable works and when I say valuable I mean not just monetary valuable but culturally valuable. That there were two get away vehicles etc."
While nothing is for certain, she said the paintings were more likely to still be in the country with their cultural significance and history meaning there's a bigger market for them here.
"New Zealand's too small, there'll be something that happens that will be a catalyst that will lead someone or the police to find those works."
She said many famous paintings have been found again in the past, in late 2016 two Vincent van Gogh paintings were found in Naples after being stolen from a public art museum in Amsterdam 14 years earlier.
Ms Jackson said many were worried about what condition they would be in if they did turn up.
"You've got paintings there that are 134 years old now so they're very vulnerable.
"They were moved quickly, there was broken glass involved, there was speeding vehicles, and if you think about how in an art museum context works are moved, you know not when the public are there, on cushioned trolleys, white gloves, lots of people, very carefully, very slowly, and this was the complete opposite."

Two Spaniards arrested over smuggling of artifacts looted by ISIS

Spanish police have arrested two men for allegedly smuggling pieces of art looted by groups affiliated with ISIS from sites in Libya.
Authorities there believe this to be the first ever police operation against the financing of terrorism through the looting of art.
The suspects, both 31-year-old Spanish nationals, are art experts who bought the pieces -- known in the market as "blood antiquities" -- to sell in their gallery, according to a police statement Wednesday that did not specify where the gallery was located. Police named them only as Mr. O.C.P and Mr. J.B.P.
Police recovered a number of artworks after searching five locations.
They were arrested in Barcelona for their "alleged participation in the crimes of financing terrorism, belonging to a criminal organization, trading in stolen goods, smuggling and forging documents."
The statement said that the suspects were part of a Catalonia-based network with international reach dedicated to the retail of artworks from territories controlled by groups affiliated to ISIS.
The two men used foreign intermediaries to acquire the artworks, and concealed the origin of the goods by dispatching them from Asia and different parts of the Middle East, police said.
After searching five locations, including storage facilities and the gallery where some looted pieces were on sale to the public, police recovered artworks including sculptures, mosaics and sarcophagi.
With the help of the Libyan authorities, police verified the authenticity of the pieces and traced their origin to the Apollonia and Cyrene archaeological sites in northern Libya, both of which have been looted by terrorist groups.
The recovered items included sculptures and mosaics.
Some of the recovered pieces showed imperfections such as bumps and dents that suggested they had been extracted from the ground violently and transported insecurely, police said.
Police believe the suspects carried out restoration work on the artworks in Spain in an attempt to disguise the damage.
Members of ISIS have destroyed or looted a number of ancient cultural treasures in Syria and Iraq, often posting videos of their vandalism online.
In 2015, the FBI asked art collectors and dealers to look out for antiquities that could have been put on the market by ISIS.
The warning came after "credible reports" that some Americans had been offered cultural items that seemed to have been taken from Syria and Iraq, according to a statement at the time from Bonnie Magness-Gardiner, who was then manager of the FBI's Art Theft Program.

Nazi-looted Cranach painting returned to rightful heirs to be sold at Christie’s Old Masters auction

An Old Master portrait missing for nearly 80 years has been returned to the heirs of Dutch banker and art collector Fritz Gutmann. They now plan to auction the picture with an estimate of $1m-2m.
'Portrait of John Frederick I, elector of Saxony' by Lucas Cranach the Elder measuring 24¾ x 15⅝ in (62.8 x 39.7 cm). Image from Christie's.
Lucas Cranach the Elder’s Portrait of John Frederick I, Elector of Saxony was last publicly displayed in Rotterdam in 1938.
Gutmann’s vast collection in his home to the west of Amsterdam was stolen by the Nazis in 1940, with many works acquired for Hitler and Goering. Gutmann and his wife Louise were arrested in 1943 and died in the camps of Theresienstadt and Auschwitz a year later.
But after its former owner acknowledged it had been stolen, Gutmann’s heirs, with the help of experts at Christie’s, negotiated its return.
The half-length oil on panel will now be offered at Christie’s Old Masters auction on April 19 in New York.
Simon Goodman, Fritz Gutmann’s grandson and owner of the Cranach painting, said: “I have spent years hunting for this marvellous painting. Among those pieces still missing from my grandfather’s collection, this was the piece I was the most doubtful of ever recovering. My family are thrilled by its discovery. We are also extremely grateful to the people who brought it forward and to Christie’s for facilitating its return.”
Monica Dugot, international director of restitution at Christie’s, said: “We hope that the reappearance of this painting demonstrates that with goodwill, perseverance and collaboration, amicable and fair solutions can be found in resolving complex restitution cases and losses due to Nazi persecution, even after so many years.”
The portrait, painted in the 1530s, depicts John Frederick I (1503-54), an electoral prince and head of the Schmalkaldic League of Germany - a defensive alliance formed by Protestant territories. John Frederick was an ardent supporter of Martin Luther and the Reformation, and is considered to be one of the founders of the University of Wittenberg.
He married Sibylle of Cleves in September 1526, whom Cranach also portrayed on numerous occasions. According to Christie’s, this painting is one of Cranach’s most refined depictions of John Frederick, who at the time of painting was the artist’s greatest patron and close friend.

Belgian Police Discover 84 Pages of Stolen Albert Uderzo Art in Forest

It feels something that might have actually happened in an Asterix comic, to be followed by a lot of dead wild boar. But it appears that Belgian police have discovered 84 stolen pieces of art by Asterix co-creator Albert Uderzo, secreted in a forest. Or, rather, the town of Forest.

Eighty-four original drawings were found during a search of the town earlier this month. The art was reported stolen last year after being discovered being sold at auction in Belgium as part of what was called ‘The Rackham Collection’. But after the auction, the art — and the sellers — disappeared.
At the time, Uderzo said the pieces were either stolen, or lent out in 2012 and not returned. The owner of the auction house, Alain Huberty, while holding an investigation to determine the origin of the art pieces, stated that he knew the seller is honest, and that any statement from Uderzo that the art disappeared in 2012 is false. And the owner reported they had owned them for 30 years, and no police complaint has been filed.
But the gendarmes were on the hunt. And it was the French police who discovered their location, and worked with Belgian authorities to organise a raid within 24 hours.
Denis Goeman, spokesman for the Brussels prosecutor’s office, put the speed down to Getafix’s magic potion.
The stolen drawings are some of Uderzo’s earliest and predate Asterix, from the ’40s to the ’60s, including childhood drawings, he worked on the Captain Marvel Jr character and also Castagnac, a forerunner of Asterix.
The countries have different laws over art ownership, as a result of the theft of Jewish property during the Second World War. In France, owners of art are obliged to disclose how they acquired them, but not in Belgium. Uderzo describes Belgium as being “a little curious country for not having similar legislation,” which would have prevented the pages being put up for sale in the first place.
Asterix pages and covers regularly sell for six or seven figures, and while these artworks are worth less, in total they would be worth many millions.
No one has yet been charged or arrested and the French investigation continues.