Thieves Trying to Steal Precious Painting Get Worthless Copy
Caravaggio painting worth £129 million was almost stolen by burglars
Burglars broke into the home and stole items including bottles of perfume but left the painting as they thought it worthless, according to auctioneer Marc Labarbe.
Titled Judith And Holofernes and valued at £129 million, the piece sat for a century in anonymity against a wall between old clothes, family antiques and crockery.
Speaking at the unveiling of the work at the Colnaghi gallery, Mr Labarbe joked the burglars had not deemed the painting "adequate" enough to steal it.
He said: "One of my clients was clearing his attic and he needed two men to help him. It took a year to sell all the antiquities.
"Clocks, toys, pieces of religion, in good and bad condition, clothes, crockery, as well as many things of no interest. Everything was very dusty.
"I have to tell you that a few years before, burglars broke into the attic and stole many things, included eau de parfum bottles.
"Fortunately, our painting was not adequate."
He added: "On the 23rd of April 2014, late in the morning, my client called me again because he had found a painting and wanted my opinion on it.
"I went to his house and climbed the stairs to the landing of the attic where the painting was displayed.
"At this moment there was what was like a fog across the whole canvas.
"The painting was blurry and it was almost impossible to see the details, but I was impressed by the state of the composition."
According to Paris-based art appraiser Eric Turquin, the work was painted in 1607.
It depicts the biblical tale of Judith, a widow from the city of Bethulia, who breaks the siege of her home by seducing the Assyrian leader and beheading him.
It will be sold without reserve on June 27 in Toulouse at the La Halle aux Grains, with Mr Labarbe saying: "This magnificent story began in Toulouse. It has to continue in Toulouse."
The painting is Caravaggio's second version of the same subject, with the first painted in Rome around 1600.
The discovery means there are now 68 known paintings attributed to the artist, who was born in 1571 and died in 1610 of suspected lead poisoning from his paint.
Judith And Holofernes will be on display at Colnaghi at 26 Bury Street from March 1 until March 9.
FBI Found Over 40,000 Stolen Artifacts, Including 2,000 Human Bones, In an Indiana Home
We all have fun little hobbies: gardening, bowling, or, like one man in Waldron, Indiana, stealing other people’s culture, including the literal bones of their ancestors. Four years ago, the FBI found more than 40,000 individual relics and works of art in the home of Indiana “collector” Donald Miller, including pre-Columbian pottery, ancient weapons, and items in a case labeled “Chinese jewelry” dated to 500 BCE. The objects were arranged in a vast sort of home museum, and included specimens from around the globe — thousands of which were sourced in violation of antiquities laws and federal and state statutes. As reported by SF Gate, according to the FBI, Miller went on digs around the world and illegally brought his finds home to the United States.
But this Wunderkammer turned the corner into a wtfuckerkammer when the FBI raid revealed some 2,000 human skeletal remains amid Miller’s collection, revealing the man to be less a collector than a grave robber (though arguably the line gets blurry at times). It’s estimated the bones belong to 500 Arikara Native American individuals, stolen from burial sites primarily in North Dakota. Though the FBI first engaged with Miller in 2014, the grave-robber and antiquities hoarder passed away in 2015 at the age of 91, leaving the federal organization with a logistical nightmare, in terms of returning the purloined remains and objects to their rightful places of origin.
As reported this week on FBI News, the federal agency is now publicizing the case, along with an invitation-only website detailing the items, in the hopes of gaining further assistance from governments around the world and from Native American tribes to locate their rightful origins. Since, for some 70 years, Miller actively unearthed cultural artifacts from North America, South America, Asia, the Caribbean, and in Indo-Pacific regions such as Papua New Guinea, the number of affected parties is complex, and the disbanding of 7,000 items reclaimed by the FBI in 2014, as well as the human remains which triggered their investigation, is only now being realized.
“It was a very complex operation,” Special Agent Tim Carpenter, who oversees the FBI’s art theft program and who led the 2014 recovery effort in Indiana, is quoted as saying. “We are not treating this material as simply evidence. These objects are historically, culturally, and spiritually important, and you have to take that into consideration.” He added:
We are dealing in many cases with objects that are thousands of years old. So imagine a scenario where you take an artifact that was created 4,000 years ago, survived in the ground or a tomb, survived being looted, survived being transported to the United States, has been in this guy’s house for the last 60 years, and the FBI comes along and we pick it up and we stumble and we drop it and we break it. That’s a pretty bad day.The mere physical delicacy of the objects in question fairly pales in comparison to the delicacy with which the FBI must trace the rightful provenance of these objects, which Miller liked to display to visiting school groups (though the human remains he kept largely to himself, and the occasional visiting serial killer who might be into that kind of thing). Miller was a renowned scientist who helped build the first atomic bomb, so presumably, his nightmares were haunted by many a restless spirit, and not just those he had disinterred to add to his collection.
As the affair inches towards its resolution, officials from China are due in Indianapolis this week to recover their relics, CBS reports. But the whole situation raises timely questions about the line between grave-robbing and archaeology. With the continuing struggle for people like the Rapa Nui of Easter Island to recover sacred artifacts taken by the British and held as cultural treasures, the Donald Miller case is a sobering object lesson in white entitlement to world culture, and the reluctance some have to return what they have taken. According to the FBI, Miller was compliant with their orders and expressed a desire to see the remains and stolen artifacts returned to their rightful place in the world — but the underlying issue seems to be the sense that it was ever okay to take them in the first place.
The World’s Most Prolific Art Thief Has Just Explained His MotivationMost of us sail through life always striving to be better, existing tepidly without definitive confirmation that we are (or ever were) at the peak of our profession. Master art thief Stéphane Breitwieser has a considerable amount of problems, but this is not one of them.
In a long profile published on Thursday at GQ and written by author Michael Finkel, Breitwieser explains, in his own words, just what exactly motivated him to pilfer more than a billion dollars’ worth of artwork in hundreds of museums over the course of an incredible tear of about six years. The saga also involved his mother and his girlfriend (the latter two did not contribute to the story and in fact have never spoken publicly about the infamous robberies).
Breitwieser has been imprisoned more than once for his crimes, and is currently once again incarcerated pending further investigation from French authorities, who say they’ve found “Roman coins and other objects” in his residence.
Finkel points out that what’s perhaps most staggering about Breitwieser is the “why” behind the unbelievable volume of his trophies, which were famously destroyed by his mother for reasons that are still unclear. The thief didn’t resell his items on the black market, or seek to trade what he’d obtained for better housing or travel.
He stashed everything in the house where he lived with his mom and his girlfriend, because all he really wanted to do was look at it. And the “why” behind this impulse of obsession seems so ripe for a cinematic adaptation, it’s practically tumescent. The thief’s father, you see, had abandoned the family when Breitwieser was 22 years old and taken every item of value with him, including a collection of antique weapons.
The first thing Breitwieser ever stole from a museum was a hand-carved gun that was dated to 1730. “His first thought, he recalls, was that he should already own something like this,” Finkel writes.
Once off to the races as a thief, Breitwieser set about amassing a trove of Renaissance paintings, daggers and other artistic ephemera fit for a king, but perhaps his favorite acquisition was an ivory sculpture of Adam and Eve that had managed to survive his mother’s attempt to destroy it (she allegedly threw it in the Rhone-Rhine Canal). In 2018, Finkel returned with Breitwieser to visit the statue at the Reubens House Museum in Belgium, from which he had initially stolen it decades earlier.
The thief is overcome, and cries for what can never again be his. “Art has punished me,” he tells Finkel before pilfering a copy of the museum’s catalogue—evidently that keenly-felt discipline at the hand of creative expression hasn’t quite tamed his criminal impulse.