Stolen paintings gone foreverAccording to experts in the world of stolen art retrieval, there’s between a 5 and 10 percent chance the seven paintings from the Triton collection, stolen in October from the Kunsthal Museum in Rotterdam, will ever be found or returned.
By: Sharon Cox, The Jamestown Sun
According to experts in the world of stolen art retrieval, there’s between a 5 and 10 percent chance the seven paintings from the Triton collection, stolen in October from the Kunsthal Museum in Rotterdam, will ever be found or returned.
A story posted on the internet by CNN, reporters Ben Brumfield and Josh Levs reported police saying the “initial investigation shows the burglar was well prepared.” Indeed. Other sources ask whether it might have been an inside job.
State-of-the-art security was considered unbreakable, thus the question whether the thefts might have been committed by someone who knew how to disarm it, or how to move inside the museum space without detection. And with the history of past art thefts showing such a small percentage of recovery, it looks pretty unlikely the Impressionist-era works will be returned.
There have been some famous pieces taken from well-known museums that were returned, such as the Mona Lisa, by Leonardo da Vinci, which in 1911 was taken from the Louvre in Paris. It was returned (found) two years later by an Italian and he was celebrated on a hero’s status by his countrymen, even though he stole it. He claimed he stole it to “return it back to Italy … where it belonged.” Reputedly, he was sent money and gifts to his cell while incarcerated.
Now back at the Louvre, it has its own security system and security guards. The small painting is on its own wall, behind protective glass and all that is blocked from the public by additional barriers, plus cameras and human protection. The multi-million dollar piece has increased substantially since and its value is now so high it’s said there’s no dollar amount that could buy it. It could not have been sold or shown anywhere, so the thieves had no way to make money by selling it. No reputable buyer would touch it with the proverbial 10-foot pole.
Georgia O’Keeffe, American painter from the mid-20th century, located her own stolen paintings nearly 30 years after they had been taken from her husband’s gallery in 1946. The Princeton Gallery of Fine Arts had bought the paintings for $35,000 and she wound up suing the museum and finally getting back her work, even though the statute of limitations (of six years) was past that deadline by more than two decades. But some parts from the Ghent Altarpiece were not so lucky.
Two panels from the glorious Ghent Altarpiece, painted by Dutch painters Hubert and Jan Van Eyck, were stolen in 1934 from the museum. One was found and returned. The second one, “The Just Judges,” has not been found. The thief, Arsesne Goedetier, died before disclosing where the other panel was located. He held the work for ransom, knowing the works could not be sold. It’s the rationale experts are using now to explain why they fear the latest stolen art pieces will not be found in our lifetime.
The stolen masterpieces are well-documented and belonged to the Triton Collection, which had been assembled over a 20 year period. The “Tete d’Arlequin,” by Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse’s “La Liseuse en Blanc et Jaune” and two of Claude Monet’s pieces, “Waterloo Bridge, London,” and “Charing Cross Bridge, London” are among the most notable of the paintings.
“Femme devant une fenetre ouverte, dite la Fiancee,” by Paul Gauguin, Lucian Frued, “Woman with Eyes Closed” and Meyer de Haan’s “Autoportrait” were the other three taken during the heist.
The Triton Collection included works by Marcel Duchamp, Piet Mondrian and George Braque. American pop-art printmaker Andy Warhol also has work in the collection, but his “15 minutes of Fame” had yet to be placed on display.
Having been able to see in person some of the paintings by those artists, I am one who would be so thankful during this or any time, to hear those works had been found and returned. The world is a brighter place when we have such treasures available for us ordinary people to go see. The inspiration they cause has been the catalyst for many a student artist to aspire to the greatness of a Monet, Matisse or Picasso.
If anyone has an item for this column, please send to Sharon Cox, PO Box 1559, Jamestown, ND 58402-1559.