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Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Stolen Art Watch, Hotel Targeted for Close-Season Art Theft

Art thieves steal hotel paintings

Art thieves have stolen £35,000 worth of oil paintings from a historic hotel in the heart of the Highlands.
Glengarry Castle Hotel, which lies on the shores of Loch Oich, was targeted on Monday night when it was closed to guests over winter.

The intruders managed to make off with the paintings without alerting the hotel caretaker, who was the only person in the building at the time.

The haul included two by works by Victorian artist George Armfield.

Hotel manager Donald MacCallum, whose family has owned the estate - which includes the famous Invergarry Castle, where Bonnie Prince Charlie sought solace after his defeat at Culloden - for half a century, said he was devastated at the loss.

Mr MacCallum added: "The thieves took a total of four of our collection of oil paintings. These four are valued at around £35,000.

"Two of them by George Armfield were very large, four foot by three foot. These were placed above the fireplace in the lounge and library and attracted a lot of attention from guests.

"These main ones were of hunting scenes. One showed a grouse that had been shot with dogs jumping around it. The other showed three dogs around a table looking guilty as they had obviously pulled some dead grouse off it.

"They were impressive paintings and very fitting for this house. They will be very much missed."

Two thieves

Of the other smaller paintings, one was by an artist called William Kennedy and showed a scene of a man ploughing fields.

Mr MacCallum said it would have taken at least two thieves to have carried off the larger works.

He added: "We are closed between November and March, so there was only a handyman living in the hotel at the time.

"We live a few hundred yards away in the grounds, so saw and heard nothing."

Northern Constabulary detectives have appealed for information about the theft.

Art Hostage comments:

Brighton breezy, whilst working in the area last Summer/Fall, the Hotel contents were logged, then, when closed for Winter, the team arrives to steal the paintings.

The two Armfield paintings were the most valuable things in the Hotel and were targeted specifically. The other paintings were stolen as an afterthought.

Sold on to a criminal Art handler, these paintings will adorn the walls of an Unsuspecting New Money Art Collector, or be shipped out of the country to America/Japan where these kind of big impressive paintings are sought after.

So, don't be surprised to hear of these paintings being traced to America/Japan in the future.

If these Armfield paintings are discovered in Japan, then unfortunately, under Japanese law the buyer will have legal title to them, strange as that may seem.

The targeting of Hotels is much more common than you may think.

A hit list is held by the Criminal Underworld of Hotels with valuable artworks displayed and attempts are made to steal them until proven successful.

What would this hit list be worth ?

Keep a look out for more Hotel art thefts, coming soon !!

Click the link below for review of Glengarry Hotel by those who have stayed there.

It was a long shot, but I was hoping the thieves may have posted a good review, especially as they have now got their grubby little hands on the "Armfield duo"

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Stolen Art Watch, Anyone Lost A Jesus Painting ?

Mystery over hidden painting

An unusual mystery is intriguing the art world as a remarkable painting has emerged from under a layer of paint which has hidden it for decades.

The stunning 19th century work, which shows the followers of Christ weeping over his body at the foot of the cross, was hidden by a different, inferior version of the same picture. It could have been a technique to conceal a stolen painting or to smuggle it out of the country, or the painting may have been toned down for religious reasons.

The canvas will go under the hammer in Beccles next month after being brought in from a local house clearance. No-one knows how much it will make, but it has stirred up considerable interest in the art world. The telephone at Durrants in Beccles has been busy with phone calls from dealers since the picture was advertised in a specialist antiques publication.

Auction rooms manager Miles Lamdin said: “When we looked at it we realised the paint was peeling off and underneath was a much better painting.

“We don't know why it was painted over, but they used paint that peeled off very easily. It is almost as if it had been done deliberately as a temporary measure. Usually when you get canvases that have been painted over the one underneath is pretty grim. The exceptions were when during various wars paintings were smuggled out of the country by painting something worthless on top.”

The 40in by 50in canvas, depicting the Lamentation over the dead Christ, is English and in the Gothic revival style. Mr Lamdin believes it would have been commissioned by some kind of religious body.

Penny Killingbeck, the Norwich-based restorer who spent three painstaking weeks removing the top level of paint with nothing more than scalpel blades, warm water and cotton wool, said: “In my 35-year career I have had five or six pictures like this where a picture has been deliberately obscuring another one. Usually it is because people wanted to take paintings out of the country, for example before the second world war.”

But she said that in those instances the painting on top was very crude, which was not the case here. “The painting on top was incredibly detailed and would have taken a long time to do. Maybe someone wanted to dull and grey it down for religious reasons. Maybe they thought it was too Catholic and gaudy.

“The one on top is a very dreary picture. It is unremarkable. The one underneath is extremely good.”

The later artist replaced the Virgin Mary's elaborate embroidered robe with a much simpler version, while a detailed cityscape covered in gold leaf also disappeared when it was painted over.

Whatever it goes for, it is unlikely to benefit its original owner or their family. The painting was part of a house clearance and the clearance company - which has not been named by Durrants - will have paid a fixed sum for the entire contents of the house. Mr Lamdin has no idea whether the person the painting belonged to is alive or where it came from, which makes it difficult to find out more about its history.

He said: “All I hope is that we don't get a call from Scotland Yard saying it is a painting that has been registered as stolen since 1937, or from a museum saying it is a missing painting that belongs to them!”

The painting will go under the hammer at Durrants in Beccles on February 8.

Do you recognise the picture or do you know who it belonged to? Contact the EDP on 01502 712060 or email
How the painting looked before being restored

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Stolen Art Watch, Slap on the Wrists Will not Deter Iconic Art Thefts !!

Two jailed in Golden Horns theft

Another chapter was added to the ongoing saga of Denmark’s Golden Horns Thursday after a Jutland court sentenced two men to prison for stealing the items from a museum last autumn.

Although the two horns are merely replicas of the original Golden Horns which were made 1600 years ago, they hold nearly mythical status in the nation’s consciousness.

Upon discovering their disappearance from the Jelling Museum in Jutland on 17 September, police initiated the most massive manhunt in recent history.

Within a few days, they apprehended two men, 22 and 24 years old, as well as a 46-year-old woman who was the mother of the younger man.

During the ensuing court case, the 22-year-old pled guilty and was sentenced to 28 months. He explained he had been asked by an unnamed suspect to steal the horns in order to pay a DKK 25,000 debt.

The other man received a 24-month prison sentence.

Charges against the woman were dropped after she convinced the court she had merely found the horns in her attic and tried to convince her son to return them.

Some good came out of the theft, according to Niels Jensen, the spokesperson for the National Museum, which had lent the horns to the Jelling Museum. Since their recovery, visitors have flocked to view the horns and attendance figures have doubled.

‘The theft has without a doubt raised attention both about the Golden Horns and our centre in Jelling,’ Jensen said.

Denmark’s Golden Horns

The first golden horn was found in a field in Jutland near Slesvig by a young girl, Kirsten Svendsdatter, in 1639.

A farmer named Erik Lassen found the second, shorter golden horn in 1734 in the same field where the first horn was found.

The horns were later transferred to the Royal Art Collection in Copenhagen.

The loss of the Golden Horns inspired the poet Adam Oehlenschl√§ger to write an account which went on to become one of Denmark’s most famous poems. Oehlenschl√§ger ironically penned the poem just a few doors down from where the stolen horns were being melted.

Reproductions of the Golden Horns were forged in silver and plated with gold based on sketches from earlier studies. The reproductions, which were on loan to the Jelling museum, therefore had little real value and art experts suggested it would have been nearly impossible for the thieves to sell them.

Scholars believe the original golden horns were made some time during the Iron Age in Germany.

Art Hostage comments:

These sentences do nothing to deter the theft of Iconic works of art.

Publicly declaring that the theft has giving much needed publicity to the town of Jelling sends out the wrong message and glorifies iconic art theft as some kind of romantic notion.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Stolen Art Watch, Selling the Story Taints Munch Convictions !!

Munch Art Thieves Get Longer Sentences

OSLO, Norway (AP) — The Norwegian Supreme Court on Friday increased the sentences of two men convicted in the theft of Edvard Munch masterpieces "The Scream" and "Madonna" and ordered a new trial for a third convicted man.

The paintings, which are considered priceless, were stolen in August 2004 in a daylight raid on the Oslo city-owned Munch Museum. They were recovered by police nearly two years later, and are undergoing repairs for scrapes, punctures, loose paint, and moisture damage.

All three men appealed their April 2006 sentences from a lower court, which ranged from five to 9 1/2 years, last month.

In its unanimous 12-page ruling, Norway's highest court said sentences for two of the men, Petter Tharaldsen and Stian Skjold, were too low considering the "irreplaceable national cultural value" of the paintings.

"The sentence should therefor be somewhat higher ... than if it had been the theft of money of the same economic value," said the court, which is a final ruling for the two.

The paintings are insured for $141 million, but experts say their real value cannot be estimated.

The court increased Tharaldsen's sentence by one year to 10 1/2 years, and Skjold's sentence by six months to six years. Under Norwegian law, higher courts frequently increase sentences when considering appeals.

But the court rejected the conviction of a third man, Bjoern Hoen, who had been sentenced to 5 1/2 years in prison, saying testimony in his trial may have been tainted, and sent his case back to the lower courts for a new trial.

Two of the key witnesses against Hoen, including a police informant, had agreed to work together on a book about the thefts without informing the courts or the defense attorneys of their plans.

The Supreme Court wrote that testimony by those two witnesses "could have been judged differently if the court had been given information about the book project, with consequence being that the question of guilt or sentencing being evaluated in a different way."

Munch's emotionally charged painting style became a major influence in the birth of the 20th-century Expressionist movement. Munch died in 1944 at the age of 80.

Art Hostage comments:

The main reason why criminals target public museums and buildings is because they are seen as low risk for potential high return.

Mandatory 10-20 years jail time for high value/Cultural art theft from public buildings or museums is all that is needed to curb the intentions of the criminal underworld.

This will lead to dispersal of all art theft into the private art collecting circle, who are better placed to protect their art collections.

I think I am safe in saying that both law enforcement and the criminal underworld agree stealing iconic artworks is a headache to be avoided at all costs.

The headache for law enforcement is when a high profile iconic artwork is stolen, precious resources are diverted from front line crime fighting to try and solve the art loss.

Sometimes millions are wasted on investigations that only result in minor convictions and none of the stolen art is recovered. This lack of success does nothing for public support of law enforcement especially if the iconic artworks are not recovered.

However, sometimes the extra resources and inter-agency co-operation do have positive results for law enforcement, as seen in the Da Vinci Madonna case.

The headache for the criminal underworld is the disruption to other criminal activity caused by Law Enforcement pursuing the stolen art.

O'h, if only there could be a Modus Vivendi between law enforcement and the underworld, whereby art theft from public buildings and museums is off-limits, and when these art thefts do occur, the underworld facilitates the swift return of the stolen art without reward, just credit of a metaphorical kind.

Historically, Law enforcement Art and Antiques investigators had a cordial relationship with the criminal art world and if an iconic artwork was stolen, word would go out, in a polite but firm manner, that the stolen art work must surface, otherwise there would be random raids disrupting regular everyday dealings.

The criminal art world took this on board and the said stolen artwork would be recovered within a week.

Today however, the art world, both criminal and so-called legitimate world are terrified to even acknowledge being in receipt of information about stolen art for fear of being prosecuted under the 2002 proceeds of crime act.

This has led to a void and a big gap in intelligence gathering.

Whilst some high profile art thefts get solved in the media spotlight, the mainstream everyday art theft goes unsolved and the public bear the brunt of being targeted unabated.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Stolen Art Watch, Dionne Warwick Theft in Same Hotel, Same Room as Cameron Diaz Theft 7 Years Ago, Spooky !!!!

Dionne Warwick's jewels stolen in Rome hotel

ROME (Reuters Life!) - Thieves stole valuables worth more than $100,000 including a diamond ring and a Rolex watch from pop singer Dionne Warwick's room in a posh Rome hotel, Italian newspapers said on Wednesday.

The robbers made off with two rings, a necklace, the watch and a pair of earrings left on a night table while the five-time Grammy award winner was preparing for a concert in Rome on Monday, La Repubblica newspaper said.

The robbery occurred in the same room at the luxurious Hotel De Russie where actress Cameron Diaz encountered a pair of thieves seven years ago, newspapers said.

Warwick, best known for pop R&B hits such as "Do You Know the Way to San Jose?", "I Say A Little Prayer" and "That's What Friends Are For", is touring in Italy this month.

Art Hostage comments:

Same Hotel, same room, Spooky, to say the least.

Unless it is the same insider, cleaner, staff member, giving the thieves inside information ??
Spotted the jewellery on display then organised the theft !!