The painting - Auvers-sur-Oise - is an oil on canvas, dated between 1879 and 1882.
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Ashmolean Cezanne Recovered ?????
Whispers that the Cezanne stolen from the Ashmolean Museum Oxford during New Year Celebrations 2000 has been recovered.
The gang struck at the Ashmolean Museum - part of Oxford University - as New Year revellers were thronging the streets. The raider lowered himself down through a skylight and lifted the Cezanne with ease.
It was the same thief who had intended to steal the Alfred Jewel but was thwarted by Bertie Smalls nephew telling Police, (Scotland Yard Art Detective Charlie Hill) about that plan, so he decided to steal the Cezanne instead on Millennium 2000.
Read this article from 2001 to see the aforementioned Cezanne thief referred to at the end of the article by Charlie Hill Art Detective:
Watching the detective
If Thomas Crown really existed, you wouldn't find him here. Neither would you bump into Dr No, Captain Nemo or Raffles on their nights off from international art thievery. But according to my dining companion, Charlie Hill, one of the world's leading private investigators of stolen treasures, this ostentatious suburban eatery is a favourite hang-out for a pool of villains who marvel at these fictional thieves' taste for Monet rather than money.
'They've seen the movies - Pierce Brosnan in the Thomas Crown remake or Sean Connery in Entrapment - and think it's cool, sexy,' Hill tells me. 'Look, even the less intelligent ones realise they can't sell a Monet or Cézanne to the local art dealer or ask Sotheby's to get the best offer. But that doesn't mean the work is worthless. It's about kudos. If you arrive for a drugs deal with masterpiece in your boot, the other team know you're serious.'
I head for the lavatory to check whether the tiny mini-disc recorder hidden in the lining of my jacket is still working and to make sure the button-hole microphone is picking up anything we're saying above the plate-smashing and drunken cheers. I rejoin Charlie Hill, try to affect a look of nonchalant disdain and not spill hummus down my shirt as I steer the pin mike in the direction of his stage whispers. Who are those heavies in the sports jackets?
'Serbs; one of them I know well. He doesn't know me luckily, except by reputation.' The crop-headed man in the fawn three-button is aware of our attention, but probably doesn't realise he has been identified as an international art thief by a private investigator.
'He was recently doing time in a Belgian prison for stealing a Van Dyck,' says Hill casually. 'Actually, it turned out to be the work of a student of Van Dyck, so when he was arrested and then found out it wasn't even the real thing, he felt doubly ripped off. I didn't know he was out already.'
The company the Serb chooses to keep - in the restaurant that will remain nameless for health and safety reasons - is multinational. Amid the Greek families celebrating noisily lurk small groups of middle-aged men, hunched conspiratorially across tables and casting an occasional wary eye round the vast room. This used to be part of Hill's uncharted territory when he was a detective with the Metropolitan Police's art and antiques squad. Working undercover, Hill would pitch up at the bar to make casual conversation with whoever was lurking.
'To them, I was a bar-room bore who worked in insurance. Very often I'd be offered jewellery and antiques. Then the eastern European crowd arrived and there'd be talk of religious icons and antiques, looted from churches. That stuff goes on here all the time, but occasionally you get the big fish, the ones who are looking to offload a painting, maybe worth millions.'
Hill's greatest claim to fame, though one he couldn't publicly take the credit for at the time, is as the undercover Scotland Yard art and antiques squad chief who recovered Edvard Munch's The Scream from the thieves who raided the national museum in 1994.
Cheekily, the robbers had celebrated their heist by leaving in the space vacated by that icon of existential angst a postcard depicting three men doubled up in mirth at some private joke. On the card was scrawled the message: 'Thanks for the poor security.'
The thieves stopped laughing when Hill, posing as a bow-tied representative of the Getty Museum and carrying a £500,000 'ransom' in a suitcase, was handed the painting and called in Norwegian police and Interpol officers to complete the sting.
Though Hill is quick to dismiss the James Bond parallels, his story - of fooling the robbers with a steady patter of Californian-accented art-speak, of seeing the Munch carried up from the cellar of a fjord-side chalet, of verifying its authenticity by the distinctive wax-splatter on one corner of the canvas ('Munch had blown out a candle as he was painting it') - is gripping stuff.
The Scream is back at home in Oslo. For a while, it joined a virtual gallery that, if collected together in a single room, would shame the Tates, Guggenheims and Gettys: 355 Picassos, 250 Chagalls, 180 Dalis, 120 Rembrandts and 115 Renoirs are among the staggering list of missing masterpieces.
Hill talks of stolen paintings, particularly Cézanne's Auvers-sur-Oise, lifted from the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford in an audacious millennium eve raid, Titian's Rest on the Flight to Egypt, taken from Longleat House, and two Turners, now in the hands of Serbian gangsters after being snatched from a Frankfurt gallery while on loan, with the passion of an art collector.
Acres of empty wall space has been left in galleries and homes around the world. Helping to refill those gaps gives him a purpose in life, Hill claims. The Charles Hill Partnership is an international detective agency specialising in tracing stolen art. Its website offers investigative services and advice on 'sensitive problems that fall outside the scope of mainstream advisers'.
Having served with the Met for 20 years, Charlie Hill knows that the police, whose scaled-down art squad now investigates art crime only within the London region, work within tightly reined financial and ethical limitations. By talking directly to the villains, and by making it clear to others within the art-crime community that informers will be paid, Hill knows he's wandering into tricky legal territory.
The fine ethical line that distinguishes a reward, which could end up in the hands of close associates of those holding the loot, and a ransom, which all agree must never be paid, is often difficult to discern.
There's £100,000 of Lord Bath's money up for grabs if anyone will point him in the exact direction of Titian's Rest on the Flight to Egypt, which was ripped from the walls of his ancestral home in 1995. It's widely accepted by art-theft investigators that the early sixteenth-century Italian masterpiece once admired by visitors to Longleat House is currently in the hands of new curators within the travelling community.
People within the same community, maybe neighbours or cousins, are also looking after Jean-Baptiste Oudry's The White Duck on behalf of Lord Cholmondeley until it's returned to Houghton Hall in Norfolk. Though he won't go into detail about the investigation, Hill reveals that he has spoken to those holding the Titian, though any appeal for return on aesthetic or altruistic grounds is hopeless. 'They just wouldn't understand,' he sighs.
The formation of the Charles Hill Partnership meant that the 'art-risk consultant' had to break cover after years in the murky sub-strata of criminal investigation. Hill used to adopt a variety of pseudonyms and guises, his favourite involving the bow-tie and the American accent. He preferred not to be photographed for this article.
Sipping Greek wine and dipping into his meze in the west London thieves' eatery, Hill now looks every inch the successful insurance salesman, in pastel colours, thick-rimmed specs and middle-aged spread.
The Charles Hill business website includes a CV that refers to a former career as a soldier. 'Oh, yes, that was Vietnam,' he explains, deadpan. 'Really?' 'Yes, really.'
The son of an American intelligence officer, Hill was born in Britain, moved to Washington as a boy and, after sitting out high-school classes in the company of a young, wannabe journalist called Al Gore, enlisted for the army.
While teenage contemporaries were marching on the Pentagon, Charlie Hill was stalking the jungles near the Cambodian border with a M16 in one hand and a book in the other. For the year he served with the 173rd Airborne Brigade - 'shooting people, being shot at, but never getting hit' - he was nicknamed 'the Professor' and regarded as a talisman by colleagues who marvelled at his ability to avoid the bullets.
Having volunteered for Vietnam to 'satisfy my intellectual curiosity', Hill won a Fulbright scholarship to Trinity College, Dublin, to study modern history. Spiritual curiosity nudged him next in the direction of a theology degree at King's College, London. Hill then joined the police. He worked undercover with various crime squads from the mid-Eighties, most notably the art and antiques squad, which, between 1994 and 1996, he led as chief superintendent.
As we talk, Hill glances around. He was introduced to this restaurant by a safe-cracker 12 years ago. In the old days, alongside the thieves, fraudsters and drug dealers, you'd find half of the CID sniffing round for leads, rubbing shoulders with the rogues.
'Police work? It's all about paper-work and conviction targets now,' he sniffs. Just as he begins to head off down memory lane, Hill interrupts himself. He has spotted another face, a man whose plans to lift the Alfred Jewel from the Ashmolean were rumbled.