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Wednesday, November 01, 2017

Stolen Art Watch, Art Crime Never Sleeps

Gambling butler jailed for stealing millions of pounds' worth of goods from Prince Charles' friend

Simon Dalton has been put behind bars for crimes against the Hanbury family.

A butler who stole possessions ranging from Picasso artwork to Faberge eggs and £1.9m worth of jewellery from a friend of Prince Charles' has been sentenced to a six years in jail.
Simon Dalton, 54, who worked for millionaire friends of the royal family, has been put behind bars after pleading guilty to six counts of theft from Major Christopher Hanbury and his wife Bridget. He used the proceeds to fund his gambling addiction.
Major Hanbury, 73, is a family friend of the Prince of Wales and has previously hosted Prince Harry at his Argentinian polo estate. He is a former member of the Queen's Royal Irish Hussars and aide to the Sultan of Brunei.
Among the stolen items are three pieces of artwork – a line drawing by Picasso, a Toulouse-Lautrec and a piece of art by singer Bob Dylan. They remain missing after Dalton has refused to reveal their whereabouts.
Manchester Crown heard that Dalton, of Finchale Drive in Hale, worked for the Hanburys since 2009 and committed the thefts between 2010 and 2012.
He was paid £19,000 after tax as house manager and lived rent free in a cottage with his wife on the family's estate in Loveslock House, Berkshire. Prosecutor David Harley said that Dalton managed the Hanbury's finances and had access to their accounts and safe.
Dalton left the family and his wife suddenly in 2012 without explanation. The only thing he left behind was a note which read: "I can't take it anymore, I'm going to Scotland to clear my head for a few months."
Despite the family making attempts to contact Dalton as they were worried about his well being, they heard no response. It was said in court that the family had "doubts" about their butler and proceeded to check their possessions to see if anything had been stolen.
They found that many valuables were missing including the Picaddo and Toulouse-Lautrec paintings, both worth approximately £650,000 each, the Dylan painting worth £100,000, and three Faberge eggs – which are jewelled eggs created by the House of Faberge.
Financial investigations found that Dalton had also stolen £725,000 from the family's bank accounts, gambling more than £570,000. Police also traced a pawnbrokers in Fleet Street, London, where the butler had pawned jewellery, watches and gems.
Pawnbrokers became suspicious when Dalton tried to pawn three Faberge eggs and a Faberge stamp, subsequently cancelling the transaction. The items were later returned to the Hanburys.
The court heard that Dalton fled to Lille in France on a ferry where he rented a safety deposit box. 1.9m of jewellery and watches were later recovered from a suitcase full of his clothes from the deposit box. Dalton was arrested on 3 January 2013 after returning to the UK.
Defending Nick Cotter claimed that Dlaton was a heavy gambler and "obsessed with death". Now separated from his wife, Cotter apologised to the Hanburys on his client's behalf.
Judge Martin Steiger QC informed Dalton that he would be "well served" at sentence if he revealed the location of the missing artwork.
The judge said: "The defendant was the trusted steward of a wealthy family involved in all things when it came to finance."

Zurich admits to ‘losing’ nearly a thousand works of art over the years

The city of Zurich has misplaced more than 900 works of art from its public collection over the years, Swiss media reported on Tuesday.
Of the 34,500 works of art belonging to the city, the whereabouts of 946 are unknown, lost over the years due to lackadaisical management, reported Tages Anzeiger
The most significant loss is a painting by Swiss-French artist and architect Le Corbusier, dating from 1927, which has an estimated value of 1.5 million francs. 
Zurich city authorities obtained the painting in 1964. It was initially displayed in a maternity hospital, before being put into storage. It later disappeared, probably in the 1990s, authorities told the media. 
Considerable effort has been made to find it, Marc Huber, a spokesman for the city’s construction department, which is responsible for the art collection, told the Tages Anzeiger. 
In 2007 the city lodged a complaint with police, and the artwork was entered into an international database of lost and stolen artworks, but as yet it hasn’t been found. 
The department has now published a list of the missing artworks in order to try and get them back.
After the piece by Le Corbusier the next most valuable is probably worth around 10,000 francs said Huber. He estimated the total value of the missing art to be around two million francs. 
The artworks were most likely lost due to mismanagement, said the paper. Over the years many were loaned out without being properly documented or tracked. 
It wasn’t until 2009 that the city took a proper inventory of its artwork, despite starting the collection a century earlier. 
The authorities now have stricter controls which have prevented more going missing, and several dozen missing artworks have been recouped in recent years, six in 2017 alone, Huber told the Tages Anzeiger.
Zurich isn’t the only the place to suffer such embarrassment. 
According to Le Matin some 2,000 works are missing from the Zurich cantonal collection, while the city of Bern has misplaced up to 200 artworks.
Other cities have remained tight-lipped about the extent of their art collections, said the paper.

Nearly 300 paintings stolen from the back of a truck in Los Banos

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Nearly 300 paintings and sketches were stolen from the back of a truck in Los Banos over the weekend and the artist is asking for the public’s help locating the art that represents more than six years of his life.
Artist Maximo Gonzalez has been working on a project since 2011 aimed at raising environmental awareness through art. The paintings and drawings — about 268 in total — were being transported from Dallas, Texas to the Montalvo Arts Center in Saratoga, Gonzalez said in a telephone interview Monday.
The artwork was stored in boxes in the back of a locked truck. The driver stopped to rest Friday night at the Maple Inn on East Pacheco Boulevard in Los Banos. On Saturday morning, he returned to the truck and found the artwork had been taken, Los Banos Police Cmdr. Ray Reyna said.

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Reyna said the artwork consisted of about 130 paintings and 138 drawings or sketches on canvass.

Persian Bas Relief Seized at European Art Fair

An ancient limestone bas relief of a Persian soldier with shield and spear was seized by police at the New York edition of The European Fine Art Fair at the Park Avenue Armory.
The relief is worth about $1.2 million and was being offered for sale by Rupert Wace, a well-known dealer in antiquities in London, the New York Times wrote.
The bas relief is a 51.5-square-centimeter piece of carved limestone that was part of a long line of soldiers depicted on a balustrade at the central building on the Persepolis site. It dates to the Achaemenid dynasty - the first Persian empire - and was made sometime between 510 and 330 BC.
Wace said he had bought the relief from an insurance company, which had acquired it legally from a museum in Montreal, where it had been displayed since the 1950s.
The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts displayed the work until 2011, when it was stolen. Three years later, the Canadian authorities recovered it from a collector in Edmonton and returned it to the museum, according to CBC News. But the curators opted to keep the insurance money and let the AXA Insurance Company take possession.
The bas relief is the latest in a string of antiquities the Manhattan district attorney’s office has seized from art dealers and museums in New York City as part of a concerted effort in recent years to recover ancient works.
Experts on artifacts from Persepolis say the bas relief was first excavated in 1933 by a team of archaeologists from the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago.
The Persian government passed a law in 1930 making it illegal to transport such antiquities out of the country.
According to an earlier statement by  Ebrahim Shaqaqi, the director of legal affairs at the Iran Cultural Heritage, Handcraft and Tourism Organization, the bas relief had been stolen from Persepolis decades ago prior to the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
“Legal follow-ups are underway to first prove that the relic belongs to Iran and finally repatriate it,” said Shaqaqi.   The European Fine Art Fair is an annual art, antiques and design fair, organized by The European Fine Art Foundation in Maastricht, Netherlands.

Stolen Stanley Spencer Painting Worth £1m Recovered From Drugs Den

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 A painting by Sir Stanley Spencer titled Cookham from Englefield, that was stolen five years ago from the Stanley Spencer Gallery in Berkshire has been uncovered in a raid on a drug dealer’s home in Kingston- Upon-Thames. The work of art valued at over £1m has now been returned to the gallery, police have revealed.
The robbery took place when a window was smashed at the Stanley Spencer Gallery in High Street, Cookham at 01:00 BST on a Sunday evening in 2012. The thief took the painting (dated 1948) by the artist once dubbed ‘the divine fool of British art’. The painting is privately owned and had been loaned to the gallery.
It is now suspected to have been used as collateral by the gang. Harry Fisher, 28, was arrested on June 15, after police found a kilogram of cocaine and £30,000 in cash in his Mercedes. Fisher’s flat in Kingston-upon-Thames, west London, was then raided by officers who discovered the painting along with three kilograms of cocaine and 15,000 ecstasy tablets. After a search of Mr Fisher’s family home in Fulham, more Class A drugs were uncovered, making a total street value of £450,000, and £40,000 in cash.
The defendant, of Seven Kings Way, Kingston, has been incarcerated for eight years and eight months at Kingston Crown Court on Friday. He pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply Class A drugs, acquiring criminal property and handling stolen goods. The judge also sentenced 32-year-old Zak Lal, of Columbine Road, Rochester, Kent, who admitted conspiracy to supply Class A drugs, acquiring criminal property and possession of an offensive weapon.
He was jailed for five years and eight months
A spokesperson from The Stanley Spencer Gallery said, “volunteers are immensely grateful to the various police sections who have contributed to the recovery of this remarkable painting which was stolen from us more than five years ago.”
Sir Stanley Spencer CBE RA (30 June 1891 – 14 December 1959) was an English painter. Shortly after leaving the Slade School of Art, Spencer became well known for his paintings depicting Biblical scenes occurring as if in Cookham, the small village beside the River Thames where he was born and spent much of his life. Spencer referred to Cookham as “a village in Heaven”, and in his biblical scenes, fellow-villagers are shown as their Gospel counterparts. Spencer was skilled at organising multi-figure compositions such as in his large paintings for the Sandham Memorial Chapel and the Shipbuilding on the Clyde series, the former being a World War One memorial while the latter was a commission for the War Artists’ Advisory Committee during World War Two. As his career progressed, Spencer often produced landscapes for commercial necessity and the intensity of his early visionary years diminished somewhat while elements of eccentricity came more to the fore. Although his compositions became more claustrophobic and his use of colour less vivid he maintained an attention to detail in his paintings akin to that of the Pre-Raphaelites.