Can I imagine stealing a great work of art? Yes, I can. But I wouldn't
Patrick Vialaneix appears to be an exception. This French unemployed technician turned up at a police station earlier this year to confess to the theft of Child with a Soap Bubble, a painting often attributed to Rembrandt, from a museum near Cannes in 1999.
If an interview he gave to Le Monde is to be believed, Vialaneix is that rare being – a thief motivated by the love of art. He says he fell in love with the painting when he saw it at the age of 13 and regularly visited it from then onwards to stand rapt before the genius of Rembrandt. Finally, he worked out how he could use his skills as a security technician to steal it.
Is this plausible? Vialaneix has now been arrested in connection with an attempt to sell the painting, but is it believable that he really was motivated initially by an obsession with this work of art?
Yes, it's believable. I can easily imagine being so obsessed with a painting that you feel compelled to steal it. Not this painting, though: I do not believe it to be an actual Rembrandt. But sure, I might be tempted by a real Rembrandt.
After all, the entire art world rests on its power to seduce and fascinate and obsess people, to make them covet it. Collectors are people who cannot bear to just see art in museums. They need it in their house. They get it (usually) in legal ways, by buying from galleries or at auction. Similarly, curators who work in public museums are driven to get physically close to art, to dedicate their working lives to being in close proximity to it. And writing about art is another way of taking possession of it.
On the other hand … writers share art with their readers. Curators care for it on the public's behalf. Only private collectors come close to the art thief in selfishness, yet even they bequeath works to museums or loan them to exhibitions.
The art thief who loves art is seeking a totally selfish experience, hidden from the world. By taking art out of circulation, making it vanish, you deny everyone else the pleasure you covet. Your relationship with the work of art becomes like that between a kidnapper and a hostage. If this is love, it is of the perverse kind.
Let's be honest. Anyone who adores art can imagine hiding away a secret, stolen masterpiece. But it's a sick daydream. The beauty of art lies in sharing. It is the fact that everyone loves a masterpiece that makes it a masterpiece. To steal art is to destroy the social phenomenon that is beauty.
Shame still hangs over the Sevso hoard
The recent return of seven of the 14 pieces of Roman silver to Hungary from the UK is a positive development in the find’s sad history
The treasure seems to have been discovered—the circumstances remain murky—in the 1970s. That the late Peter Wilson, formerly the chairman of Sotheby’s, should have started acquiring pieces of the treasure in 1980 seems odd today, since it was not until 1981 that a Lebanese export permit (later found to be forged) was acquired for the first four pieces that were bought. A buyer with a more suspicious mind would have realised that the treasure must have been looted and must have been exported illegally from its country of origin.
Through his lawyer, Peter Mimpriss of Allen and Overy, Wilson was able to interest the Marquess of Northampton in the silver as a proposition for investment, and by 1987, the Marquess of Northampton 1987 Settlement Trust was the sole owner of what by then was a collection of 14 pieces of impressive Roman silverware. The plan for Sotheby’s to sell the silver by auction in Switzerland in 1990 was halted by the seizure of the treasure on a publicity tour to New York, when Lebanon, and then Hungary and Croatia, laid claim to it in the New York State Supreme Court. The court did not find in favour of either Hungary or Croatia, Lebanon having withdrawn its claim, and the treasure was returned to London to the custody of the Marquess of Northampton.
It is important to note that the judge did not rule that the marquess was the legal owner, simply that neither Hungary nor Croatia had demonstrated good title. Not surprisingly, the Marquess of Northampton was disappointed by the sale fiasco of his investment, and (with a new lawyer) sued Mimpriss and Allen and Overy, winning a settlement—reportedly of £24m—in 2000.
In November 2006, the 14 pieces of silver (and the copper container in which they were found) were placed on display at Bonhams auction house for an invited audience. Then the scene went quiet, until the announcement in late March by Victor Orbán, Hungary’s prime minister, that seven pieces of the treasure had been successfully repatriated (at a cost of €15m) and put on public display.
The vendors, who are €15m better off, did not include the Marquess of Northampton; the silver was instead sold by a trust. Its beneficiaries are the two sons of the late Peter Wilson, who made the initial, ill-fated purchase in 1980. Ludovic de Walden, the current lawyer of the marquess, indicated last week that the marquess is still the owner of the remaining seven pieces.
Loss to archaeology
There are several conclusions to be drawn from this unhappy tale. The first is that much crucial archaeological information must have been
lost at the time of the discovery of the treasure. The circumstances of the find remain unclear, although later investigations in Hungary seem to have identified the place where the silver was found. The archaeological associations could have yielded crucial information, which is now lost forever, about the circumstances of burial.
Whether or not it is true, as has been claimed, that another 40 vessels and 187 spoons were also part of the hoard can probably never now be established.
The second rather shocking outcome is that the treasure, after all its unhappy history, has again been divided, with seven pieces in Budapest and seven apparently still in the possession (although, according to the New York judge, not necessarily the legal ownership) of the seventh Marquess of Northampton. Financial expediency wins again, as Europe’s cultural heritage is treated as a mere investment. It is sad that the integrity of this important assemblage of Roman silverware has again been broken.
There are other dismal features. The reputation of the late Peter Wilson, and indeed of Sotheby’s, does not come well out of this unseemly episode. The government of Hungary has had to pay €15m to repatriate what was presumably its own property in the first place. The law firm Allen and Overy was obliged, in 2000, to pay £24m to the marquess, in a settlement that certainly did not enhance its reputation (nor his own). And the unfortunate marquess is probably not in overall profit, after paying substantial legal fees to his succession of lawyers, and is still in possession of seven pieces of silver that are probably now unsaleable.
For Croatia has not yet protested about the recent export from England of the seven pieces to Hungary, undertaken with an export licence from the UK government. If Croatia were to relinquish its claim, Hungary might well be able to reassert its own claim as the sole remaining claimant to the pieces still in the possession of the marquess. Certainly it would now be difficult for the Department of Culture, Media and Sport to grant an export licence for these remaining seven pieces if their destination were anywhere other than Hungary.
Still, to look on the bright side, seven of the most important pieces of Roman silverware in the world are now on display in Budapest. There, the Latin motto on the Hunting Plate can still be read:
“Let these, O Sevso, yours for many ages be/Small vessels fit to serve your offspring worthily”.
And it is an ill wind that does nobody any good: the restoration of at least a part of Hungary’s cultural heritage in March did no damage at all to the standing of Prime Minister Orbán, who secured a second term in the election held on 6 April.
Stolen Rupert Bunny painting, Girl in Sunlight, returned after 23 years
The mystery began on an autumn night in April 1991, when a burglar broke into the Blairgowrie home of elderly retiree Albert Watt.
According to the police report, the only item stolen was Mr Watt's cherished Rupert Bunny painting, Girl in Sunlight, which hung above his dining table and is worth about $250,000.
Mr Watt bought the painting - which depicts a woman with a white parasol reading in a Parisian garden - in 1953 and kept it in his South Yarra apartment until his sea change in the late 1970s.
Police never solved the theft, which they described as ''targeted''. Over the years, Mr Watt would blame his cleaner - the only person who regularly admired the painting - while his nephews, James and Michael, assumed it ended up overseas. Mr Watt died in 1993, two years to the day after Girl in Sunlight was taken, with the case unsolved.
As executors of their uncle's will, Michael and James Watt continued the search, offering a substantial reward and even engaging a private investigator, but to no avail.
Eventually, an anonymous phone call ended the mystery. That call came in 2010, when the National Gallery of Victoria held a retrospective of Rupert Bunny's work. Girl in Sunlight was scheduled to go on display.
The tip-off led police to the Malvern East home of Frank Levy - the new owner of the painting - and the discovery that it had apparently been stolen by Mr Watt's closest friend, Peter Rand. Mr Watt and Mr Rand - an eccentric millionaire property investor and rumoured Melbourne brothel owner - were South Yarra friends and neighbours for more than 40 years.
But now, according to court documents, it has been established that Mr Rand was the likely mastermind behind the theft.
Mr Rand kept the painting until his own death in 1997. According to his will, Mr Levy - his lawyer - would receive a ''painting by Rupert Bunny of a woman sitting on the ground''.
The Levys did not know the painting had been stolen, displaying it in their Malvern East home for the next decade.
In February 2008, Mr Levy and his wife decided to have the painting valued. The valuer told them art historian and curator David Thomas was cataloguing Rupert Bunny's work for an exhibition at the NGV and would be interested in seeing the painting. A few weeks later, Mr Thomas decided to include the work in the NGV's retrospective.
In April 2010, the matter was reported to police and a few weeks later a search warrant was executed at Mr Levy's home. But that wasn't the end of the battle for the Watts. Their uncle's painting had been found, but Mr Levy argued that the statute of limitations had expired and the Bunny was now rightfully his.
For the past three years, the case has been before the Supreme Court. Last week Mr Levy finally lost his appeal.
Twenty-three years after Girl in Sunlight disappeared, the painting is once again with Mr Watt's heirs.
Police keeping eye out for stolen WWII medalsALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- Roy Hopper survived the Normandy invasion and a prisoner of war camp during World War II.
Now, Hopper, 89, faces another challenge: Trying to get back military medals — including a Bronze Star for bravery — that were stolen from his home last month while he was in the hospital.
The Albuquerque Police Department and U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-New Mexico, are leading the effort to help Hopper.
Detectives are watching pawn shops and antique stores for the framed service medals, Albuquerque police spokeswoman Tasia Martinez said Wednesday. Hopper's name is inscribed on the back of the medals, authorities said.
Heinrich, D-New Mexico, told KOB-TV (http://goo.gl/l4B7bG) that his staff is working on getting replacement medals for Hopper.
"I hope ... he can get his original medals back with his name inscribed on the back," Heinrich told the station. "If that's not possible, we're here to make sure he gets replacement medals for every single medal he's earned."
Military services work on request for replacement medal for veterans at no cost, according to the National Archives website. This includes family members with the signed authorization from veterans, the website says.
In 1991, Hopper was awarded the Bronze Star for his heroic efforts during World War II. Hopper participated in the Normandy Invasion before being captured by the Germans. He spent nine months in a camp for prisoners of war.
Investigators searched Hopper's home for evidence, but they didn't find any fingerprints, police said. Investigators said they believe the suspect was wearing gloves.
Guns and cash were also missing from Hopper's home. No arrests have been made.
Terri Stewart, co-owner of Stewart's Military Antiques in Mesa, Arizona, said it's difficult to put a price tag on WWII medals like the Bronze Star.
"It all depends on if his name is inscribed on the back and if the medals come with proper documents," Stewart said.
In a separate incident, another World War II veteran was robbed at his home in Carson City, Nevada.
The Secret Witness program is offering a $1,500 reward for the arrest and prosecution of suspects who robbed the 101-year-old veteran during the Memorial Day weekend.
The robbers forced their way into the home of the Air Force veteran around 5 a.m. Sunday looking for a non-existent safe, authorities said. One of the robbers had a gun.
The victim, Jim Sorentino, told KRNV-TV that he lives alone with a caretaker in a gated community. His home was ransacked, and the thieves stole a wristwatch, pocketknife and a wallet with about $30 in it, Sorentino said.
Yichang Thief Decorates House with Over 300 Priceless Antiques Stolen over 3 Years
Court hears of £500,000 art theft from Dowager Countess Bathurst
Kim Roberts, of Lower Church Street, Colyton, Devon, appeared at Gloucester Crown Court this week accused of taking items including a Picasso sketch while she worked at the Dowager's Cirencester and London homes as a housekeeper and personal assistant.
Her defence team told the court that she would be pleading not guilty and had in fact been given the items after working for the Dowager Countess Bathurst, after she had worked for her for less than a month.
She is charged with three charges of theft - two from the Dowager Countess and one from a previous employer.
She will appear back in court on August with a three day trial planned for the start of November.
The Dowager Countess Gloria lives in a farmhouse on her family's Cirencester Park Estate and is the widow of the eighth Earl Bathurst, Henry, who died in 2011 aged 84.
The charges against Ms Roberts include theft at Sapperton between April 30 and May 21 last year of art and antiques to the value of approximately £500,000 belonging to the dowager Countess Bathurst.
She is also charged with stealing antique vases between April 30, 2013, and August 20, 2013, from the Dowager's London home in Kensington and with stealing a £10,000 Volvo XC90 on October 21, 2012. The Volvo was allegedly stolen from Drayton House in Drayton Foliat, Wiltshire, the home of previous employer Emily Olympitis.
Prosecutor Julian Kesner said the defence had informed him Ms Roberts will plead not guilty to all charges and there will definitely be a trial.
Ms Roberts was released on bail pending the trial.
Masterpiece is returned – 22 years after theft
A PAINTING that was stolen from a Dublin gallery more than 20 years ago has finally been returned to its walls after being found by gardai.Members of the Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB) discovered In the Omnibus, by the French artist Honore Daumier, during a criminal investigation last year.
When it was stolen in 1992, the watercolour and gouache work was insured for at least €250,000.
Sources in the art world have said the small painting could now be worth up to €1m, depending on market trends and tastes.
It was put back on display in the Dublin City Council-funded Hugh Lane Gallery on Parnell Square yesterday.
But while the masterpiece by the French artist, who died in 1879, is hanging in the gallery once more, its future is less certain.
When it was stolen, the painting was owned by Dublin City Council and the insurance company who covered it paid out on the loss.
That means that the painting is now in the ownership of the insurance company, which could sell it to a private collector if it wanted to.
The painting does not seem to have suffered any damage during the years it was missing.
“Our internal audit section are liaising with the insurers, who have changed ownership since the theft occurred, to see if a suitable arrangement acceptable to both parties can be agreed,” said assistant city manager Brendan Kenny.
“We would hope that no matter who owns the masterpiece it might remain in the Hugh Lane for the public to enjoy, having been hidden away from them for more than two decades,” he told
The council said it is not privy to the details of the garda investigation that led to the discovery of the painting, and a spokesperson for An Garda Siochana would not comment on the matter.
“We are just happy that this important work of art has been retrieved in good condition,” said Mr Kenny.
Security at the gallery was upgraded after the painting was stolen in 1992 and again following the construction of a new wing to display more works of art.
In the Omnibus is part of the original collection presented by Hugh Lane to Dublin for the Gallery of Modern Art, which first opened to the public in 1908.
The LAPD says officers from the department's North Hollywood station responded to a report of a burglary Friday at Cyrus' home.
They say a man and a woman scaled a fence and got inside the house and garage while no one was home.
A 2014 Maserati luxury sedan and an unspecified amount of jewelry were taken.
Police asked Sunday that anyone with information about the crime call North Hollywood's burglary detectives.
Last month the 21-year-old pop star obtained a temporary restraining order against an Arizona man who was detained by police while trying to meet her - See more at: http://www.hindustantimes.com/entertainment/tabloid/burglary-at-miley-cyrus-house-maserati-stolen/article1-1225233.aspx#sthash.BCcxnrBM.dpuf
Dali sculpture snatched from Paris museum
The stolen bronze sculpture was a depiction of Dali's famous melting clocks, as seen here in The Persistence of Memory. Photo: Wikicommons
- French farms suffer as thieves pilfer stock (27 May 14)
- Monet heist 'mastermind' on trial in France (12 May 14)
- Thieves rob dead woman at French funeral home (12 May 14) Police are searching for two thieves who burst into two exhibition
rooms on Saturday showing works from the renowned Spanish surrealist
artist Salvador Dali in Montmartre in Paris’s18th arrondissement.
One of the men reportedly tried to steal a sculpture entitled ‘Danse
du Temps I’ at the Espace Dali on rue Poulbot. However his attempt was
thwarted by a vigilant tourist and he fled empty handed.
Meanwhile, at a nearby gallery just 100 metres away on place du Tertre, a second man managed to make off with a bronze sculpture depicting Dali’s famous so-called melting clocks, a recurrent symbol in the surrealist’s work, French daily Le Parisien reported.
Estimated at €22,000, the stolen work was kept behind a display case but was not equipped with an alarm. Both men managed to escape.
Sadly this isn't the first piece of art to go missing from a French museum or private collection. However, police recently recovered a Rembrandt worth millions that was stolen from a museum in the south of France.
Also a trickle of the trove of artworks pilfered by the Nazis during World War II have found their way back to their rightful owners. France recently turned over three works that were seized and auctioned off in the 1930s.