Showing posts with label Rembrandt. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Rembrandt. Show all posts

May 28, 2014

ARTNews' Laurie Hurwitz relates tale of how French Rembrandt thief coveted painting for 15 years (just like the character in Donna Tartt's novel 'Goldfinch'

Child with Soap Bubble by Rembrandt?
by Catherine Schofield Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor

ARTNews' Laurie Hurwitz describes how one man stole a painting attributed to Rembrandt from a French museum and kept it to admire for 15 years until he sold it to two men who were arrested by police in "French Rembrandt Thief Lives Real-Life Version of 'Goldfinch' Story" (May 28, 2014 online). According to Hurwitz's story as told to her by the thief, the alarm technician was 28 years old when he 'crawled into a large cabinet' right before the municipal museum in Draguignan closed and waited until the noise of the boisterous Bastille Day celebrations covered up his crime of jimmying open the painting's bullet proof case and exiting the building before police could respond to the alarm. The motive? Too have the 'Rembrandt' painting to himself which the thief fancied himself to resemble the model in the painting, Child with Soap Bubble. The irony? Journalist Vincent Noce on reporting the painting's recovery earlier this year noted that the painting may not be by the Dutch master.

March 19, 2014

French police recover painting by Rembrandt (or in the style of Rembrandt) stolen in 1999 from the municipal museum in Draguignan

"Child with a Soap Bubble" by Rembrandt?
Journalist Vincent Noce reports in the French newspaper, Liberation, that a Rembrandt painting stolen in 1999 has been recovered in Nice ("Un Rembrandt volé en 1999 e été retrouvé à nice, 19 March 2014) although the thieves may have discovered the work was not by the 'genius from Amsterdam'.

Noce reported that Tuesday afternoon French police from the unit assigned to fighting trafficking in cultural goods (OCBC) arrested two men (ages 44 and 51 years old) for trying to sell a painting stolen 15 years ago from the municipal museum in Draguignan in southeastern France. The oil painting, measuring 60 cm by 50, is attributed to Rembrandt and known as "Child with a Soap Bubble". According to Noce's article, the recovered painting has an estimated value of 4 million euros (U.S. $5.56 million) -- if it is indeed by the Dutch master and not by an artist inspired by Rembrandt. According to the article, the museum's inventory shows that the painting was taken from the Château de Valbelle [now in ruins] in Tourves during the revolution in 1794. 

Sophie Legras, writing for L'Agence France-Presse (AFP) and published in Le Figaro, reports that judicial police in Nice helped the OCBC in recovering the painting from two men known as petty criminals. Legras cites the newspaper Var Martin that the oil painting entered the municipal museum in Draguignan in 1974 as part of the original collection.

The robbery occurred on July 14th (Bastille Day). According to Legras, the 1999 theft was staged during a military parade when thieves broke into the municipal library adjacent to the museum and stole the painting and frame before police could respond to the alarm. Legras reports that "Child with Soap Bubble" was the victim of a previous robbery in February 1975.

This theft is listed in the book, Stealing Rembrandts: The Untold Stories of Notorious Art Heists by Anthony M. Amore and Tom Mashberg (Palgrave MacMillan, 2011).

Lynda Albertson contributed to this post.

January 24, 2014

Rembrandt Authentications: National Gallery of Scotland reattributes 2012 donation from Rembrandt to Captain William Baillie

by Catherine Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor

In early 2012, Glasgow's Evening Times reported that a wealthy 101-year-old woman, Jessie Steen, had bequeathed a valuable Rembrandt etching to the National Gallery of Scotland. However, the attribution has been changed. In a response to an emailing inquiring about the donation, Dr. Tico Seifert, Senior Curator of Northern European Art, wrote from Edinburgh:
The print bequeathed by Miss Steen in 2012 is a copy after an etching by Rembrandt. It was made by Captain William Baillie (1723-1810), an art dealer and printmaker who made several copies after Rembrandt etchings and owned some of the original plates. The latter he reworked and printed new impressions from, most famously of the ‘Hundred Guilder Print’. As far as we know, Rembrandt’s ‘Landscape with a Hay Barn and a Flock of Sheep’ was copied four times, by different artists, Baillie’s being the second in sequence.

Rembrandt’s etchings were copied a lot, particularly in the eighteenth century, when collectors grew insatiable. Copies partly went for the ‘real things’ but more often they were (cheaper) substitutes for the increasingly rare and expensive originals by Rembrandt.

Unfortunately, we did not receive any information at the time on where or when Miss Steen had acquired this print.

Regarding the value, as an employee of the National Galleries of Scotland, I am not supposed to give valuations and I would kindly ask you to refer to an auction house or dealer in this field.
The work had not yet been photographed.

Thank you to Dr. Seifert and to the registrar at the gallery who promptly responded to this inquiry.

January 23, 2014

Thursday, January 23, 2014 - , 1 comment

Rembrandt Authentications: Curator at Scottish National Gallery discovered red-ink drawing in its collection -- a rare find in a murky world of authenticating Rembrandt's prints

Scottish National Gallery, Rembrandt 98A:
Jan Cornelius Sylvius
by Catherine Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor-in-Chief

Dr. Tico Seifert, a senior art curator for northern European art at the Scottish National Gallery, identified a Rembrandt etching in the collection: the "rare red-ink picture" authenticated by specialists in Amsterdam, reports Edinburgh Evening News, is a portrait of Jan Cornelis Sylvius, a relative of Rembrandt's wife Saskia and godfather to their daughter Cornelia.
He said: “I was going through the boxes of copies of Rembrandt when the first thing that caught my eye is that it is an impression in red ink. “Normally prints, engravings or etchings are produced in black ink. This particular impression is in a brownish red ink which is pretty rare. That was what first made me hesitate going through to the next one.
“I checked the handbooks for what kind of copy this might be and they said the copies are always in reverse. 
“When I saw it wasn’t, I thought this is most likely not a copy.”
The Scottish National Gallery reports that the etching's provenance is unknown. In the collection posted online, the gallery shows 12 other works by Rembrandt, including an oil on panel of Hannah and Samuel; and two oils on canvases, A Woman in Bed; and Self-Portrait, aged 51.

"The National Galleries of Scotland hold about 100 etchings by Rembrandt, several of which are of superb quality," Dr. Seifert wrote in an email to the ARCAblog.

In 2010, Jenna Johnson for the Washington Post reported in "Etching found at Catholic University may be a Rembrandt" the story of the college's president discovering a framed etching and the process and valuation of a possible Rembrandt work. In July 2012, Dalya Alberge reported for the guardian in "Rembrandt drawing found in Scottish attic" that Christie's would sell the newly discovered artwork.

Here's a link to the Rembrandt Research Project, chaired by Ernst van de Wetering, 'widely accepted as the Rembrandt expert. Mr. van de Wetering authenticated a Rembrandt painting from Buckland Abbey in Devon in 2013. The DVD, Out of the Shadows: Hidden Masterpieces, is produced with the Rembrandt Research Project and the University of Delft. And this video here explains how Rembrandt sold his plates and later drawings were made in the 18th century.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art has published on the questions of authenticity in regards to Rembrandt's work. 

At the 2011 Art Crime Conference in Amelia, photographer and researcher Sarah Zimmer spoke about the event of a missing or lost Rembrandt etching in "The Investigation of Object TH 1988.18: Rembrandt's 100 Guilder Print."

The Cleveland Art Museum exhibited "Rembrandt in America" in 2012, discussing what is and what isn't a Rembrandt. The exhibit also visited North Carolina and Minnesota as the 'largest collection of authentic Rembrandt paintings'. The Morgan Library and Museum also showed an exhibit, Rembrandt's World, of the artist's drawings from the Clement C. Moore collection.

In August 2012, a Norwegian art gallery lost an Rembrandt etching in the mail (Reuters, "Norwegian gallery loses a Rembrandt in the mail," August 23, 2012).

In this article, "The 'kissing couple' bride: A remarkable war story remembered", by Debora van Brenk in the London Free Press, a story is told that an 'enterprising wife arranged for delivery of some Rembrandt etchings to high-placed German officers' to free her husband during the Nazi occupation of The Netherlands.

September 4, 2013

Montreal Museum of Fine Arts Theft: After more than four decades the paintings are still missing and the thieves remain unidentified

School of Jan Breughel the Elder
Landscape with vehicles and cattle, about 1620-80
(Recovered in 1972)

Oil on copper, 7 ½ x 10 ½ inches
Gift of Miss Jean Scott, 1958
by Catherine Schofield Sezgin, 
 ARCA Blog Editor-in-Chief

Canada's largest art theft occurred during Labor Day weekend more than four decades ago.

After midnight on Monday, September 4, 1972, a man with picks on his boots -- the same equipment used to scale telephone poles -- climbed a tree onto the roof two-story 1912 Beaux-Arts building on Sherbrooke Street which held the collection of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. He found a long construction ladder and lowered it to two accomplices on the ground who joined him on the roof.

The trio walked over to a skylight that had been under repair for two weeks, opened it, and slid down a 15-meter nylon cord to the second floor. A plastic sheet placed over the skylight had neutralized the security alarm. At 1.30 a.m., one intruder twice fired a 12-pump shotgun into the ceiling when a guard completing his rounds hesitated before dropping to the floor. Two other guards were overpowered, bound, and gagged. All three guards were held at gunpoint by one of their assailants (one of the guards would later untie himself an hour after the thieves left the building).

After 30 minutes of selecting paintings and jewelry, the thieves used a guard's key to open the door of the museum's panel truck parked in the garage. In the process, a side door alarm was tripped and the trio escaped on foot, abandoning more than 15 paintings by artists such as El Greco, Picasso, and Tintoretto and stealing 39 pieces of jewelry and 18 paintings by Rembrandt, Jan Brueghel the Elder, Corot, Courbet, Daumier, Delacroix, Gainsborough, Millet, and Rubens.

The Museum's Vulnerability

The museum's art collection, assembled over the past century from some of the wealthiest families in Canada, was insured for almost $8 million. Many of the stolen paintings had been widely publicized in Masterpieces from Montreal, an exhibition that had visited eight cities in the United States in the 18 months leading up to the Montreal Expo in 1967. The building itself was more than 60 years old and had not been updated (in 1973 it would close for three years for extensive renovation and expansion). Financially, the Montreal Museum of Fine Art was struggling -- many of the English-speaking, mostly Protestant art patrons that had supported the MMFA had fled Montreal when Quebec nationalists gained political power. The provincial government provided grants making up only 40 percent of the museum's revenues. During Labor Day weekend, many of the top museum officials -- the MMFA's president, director, and the head of security and traffic -- were on their summer holidays outside of Canada. The highest ranking museum official -- and the first one called after the robbery -- was the director of public relations.

Recovery Efforts

The museum director received an envelope containing snapshots of the paintings as 'proof of life' and a ransom demand later negotiated down to $250,000. Someone with a "European" accent called the museum director and asked him to send someone to a telephone booth near McGill University where a pendant was recovered from inside a nearby cigarette package. The MMFA demanded additional proof that the thieves had possession of the paintings and were led to a locker at Montreal's Central Station and a painting by Brueghel the Elder (now re-attributed as belonging to the School of Brueghel). A rendezvous arranged between the thieves and an "insurance adjuster" (who was really a police officer) to exchange the ransom for the paintings was aborted when a squad car from a neighboring police district drove by the meeting spot. The insurance companies posted a $50,000 award for information leading to the arrest of the thieves or the recovery of the art before paying more than $1.9 million to settle the museum's claim. In 1973, a "wild good chase" between an anonymous caller and an insurance agent cost the museum board of directors $10,000 but recovered none of the paintings.

Suspects

The museum guards described two of the thieves as 'long-haired' men of medium height wearing ski hoods and carrying sawed-off shotguns. Two of the thieves spoke French, the third English. A week into the investigation, police officials focused on five art students from the neighboring Ecole des Beaux-Arts and surveilled them for 15 days without arresting anyone. In Montreal, local criminal organizations included French-Canadian mobsters, the English-speaking Irish West End gang that controlled the seaport, and the Italian mafia. However, the thieves' method of entering the museum through a skylight under repair led some police officers to believe that the thieves represented an experienced international crime network.

In May 1972, two criminals working for Florian "Al" Monday robbed the Worcester Art Museum in central Massachusetts, taking four paintings, including the gallery's only Rembrandt, St. Bartholomew.  (All four paintings were returned within a month). 

"Art-napping" in the 1960s in the South of France

Since 1960, criminal networks from Corsica or Marseilles had stolen paintings and held them for ransom in the South of france. An art dealer's home outside of Nice had been robbed of 30 paintings and two months later thieves climbed up the building of a museum in Menton to steal seven paintings. The next month, thieves broke into a restaurant through a window and stole 20 paintings. In July 1961, thieves in Saint Tropez climbed a fence to steal 57 paintings; the next month, thieves stole eight paintings by Paul Cézanne from a guarded temporary exhibit. Most of these artworks were found months later upon payment of ransom, showing the profitability of "art-napping", the holding of a work of art to extort money. In December 1971, a Rembrandt painting was stolen from the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Tours, France.

Where are the paintings now?

The paintings may have been destroyed to prevent the 'evidence' being used against the thieves in the prosecution of the crime. None of the paintings, listed by Interpol and the Art Loss Register, have been knowingly sold at public auction. However, the paintings may have been sold through small art dealers who did not check the stolen art databases. Before 1985, not even the larger auction houses checked stolen art databases. If the paintings have been sold privately, the value may have been discounted. One or more of the paintings may be in the winter residences belonging to one or more of the members of the West End gang who are beyond the jurisdiction of Canadian authorities in Costa Rica. 

After the Theft

More than 25 insurance companies paid the MMFA $2 million for the missing works. In 1975, the museum purchased a large painting by Peter Paul Rubens, The Leopards, with a substantial part of the insurance proceeds. On the 35th anniversary of the theft, the painting by Rubens was placed in storage following an expert opinion that the work was not by the artist but by assistants from his studio.

You may read more about the theft at the blog, Unsolved '72 Theft of Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.

June 16, 2013

Amsterdam Diary: Visiting the newly opened Rijksmuseum is worth the stopover (and the day)

Inside the Rijksmuseum bike tunnel
by Catherine Schofield Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor-in-chief

SUNDAY, Amsterdam - Saturday morning I avoided getting lost cycling through Amsterdam by using the Google maps I had printed out before I'd left home. I stopped by De Bakkerswinkel for thick buttered raisin bread and a latte for breakfast -- a crucial element as the newly renovated Rijksmuseum has only one cafe for food and drinks. A section inside is set aside for "picknicks" so visitors can bring in food and water (I never found any water fountains).

Crowd at Rembrandt's
 Night Watch extends all day
Visitors do have the option of leaving for outside venders and then re-entering the museum on the same ticket. I stopped for food and drink at about 1 p.m. after completing the 90-minute Multimedia Tour on the "Golden Age" of Dutch art (it took me twice the time since I looked at other works in passing). The line at the cafe was long, so I returned to the galleries for another audio tour that highlighted the collection. I spent another two hours looking at the art before returning to a less crowded cafe for a seat at a communal table and a recommended smoked mackerel tartare. The Rijksmuseum does accommodate long visits in the museum with plentiful sofas strategically placed in front of great art for relaxing views.

The crowd in front of the Vermeer paintings
The renovated Rijksmuseum offers improved lighting (large skylights augmented by lights by Phillips) and more room to display the collection. The crowds have increased in front of the four paintings by Vermeer, Rembrandt's Night Watch, and three paintings by Van Gogh. A couple of years ago on a Sunday morning my family and I had found ourselves almost alone with these same paintings. However, the galleries are well ventilated and climate controlled and a visible force of smartly uniformed security guards manage the increased number of visitors. I did manage to sneak a few good photographs of the Vermeer paintings and Rembrandt's masterpiece in the last 15 minutes before the museum closed.

Jan Asselijn (1610-1652),
The Threatened Swan, 1650
The art is incredible. In Southern California we have numerous examples of Rembrandt's work from The Getty to the Timken Museum in San Diego, but the artist's work at the Rijksmuseum against other great Dutch work highlights his genius. It's worth the trip to Amsterdam to gain a greater understanding of why Rembrandt has endured -- even the few etchings displayed are impressive -- and influenced so many artists.

Biblioteek open to public
One of the benefits of the renovation is that lesser known works can again be displayed. For example, paintings by father and son Jozef and Isaac Israels can now be seen after years in storage. And the Gallery of Honour highlights paintings in the vast collection for easy viewing. For years my husband had remembered a painting from his last visit -- that of a large white swan with opened wings -- and I was able to show him the painting via Skype and the free Wi-Fi provided throughout the Rijksmuseum.

The multi-story library (biblioteek) is open to the public with available seating at tables for reading current art periodicals. 

The Multimedia tour is available for five euros at the Rijksmuseum or you can download it for free on your smartphone.

A distinguished gentleman and Rembrandt's Night Watch before closing.

June 15, 2013

Amsterdam Diary: Personal suffering displayed at World Press Photo Exhibit Amidst Red Light District

World Press Photo Exhibit at De Oude Kerk, Amsterdam
by Catherine Schofield Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor-in-chief

SATURDAY, Amsterdam - Yesterday I arrived in Amsterdam and biked over to the World Press Photo exhibit at De Oude Kerk ('The Old Church') in the Red Light district famous for women selling their bodies in front windows and customers smoking marijuana in coffee shops.

The inside of the oldest building in Amsterdam (1300), De Oude Kerk is an impressive setting to display award-winning photographs from 2013 and the auxiliary exhibit, 'World Press Photo Laureates From Russian and the Soviet Union, 1956-2013.'

Rembrandt's wife Saskia is buried here.
Of particular interest to art history buffs, this is the church where Rembrandt received permission to marry Saskia van Uylenburgh (died 14 June 1642) and where she lies buried underneath a modest slab. Just as the church connects visitors to more than 700 years of Dutch history, the photo exhibit serves as a humble memorial to personal suffering in 2012.

Here's a link to the 2013 Photo Contest (winners were selected from over 100,000 images). The World Press Photo of the Year went to Swedish journalist Paul Hansen for Gaza Burial, 20 November 2012, in the Palestinian Territories, that showed two men carrying the bodies of two children through the street in a funeral procession. All the photos, such as scenes from the civil war in Syria to women who dare to play basketball in Somalia to a mother and daughter who survived an acid attack in Southern Iran, are accompanied by just enough information likely to draw visitors back to the news. These photographs make suffering personal.

Inside 'The Old Church'

Information accompanying photographs by Danish photographer Jan Grarup: 'Even though Somalia's UN-backed government has regained control of the capital Mogadishu, al-Qaeda-linked militants are still active in the city. Al-Shabaab and other radical Os;a,oc groups consider women playing sport to be un-Islamic. Members of the Somali national women's basketball team have received death threats.' The women have taken precautions. 'Team members have to exercise extreme discretion. They go veiled and conservatively dressed in public, and carry basketballs deep inside their bags.'

The Russian exhibit showed the passage of time, including toddlers learning to swim before walking (1979); the image of a deformed horse as a consequence of the nuclear explosion of Chernobyl in 1986; and from Georgia celebrating its membership as a Soviet bloc country in 1981 to its civil war in 1991.

The 2013 World Press Photo Exhibit will travel to 100 cities in 45 countries.

June 3, 2013

The "Other" Dutch Paintings from the Mauritshuis Traveling with Girl with a Pearl Earring from San Francisco to Atlanta to New York City

Rembrandt, Self-Portrait
Germanisches National
 Museum
by Catherine Schofield Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor-in-Chief

Thirty-four 17th century Dutch paintings accompanied Girl with a Pearl Earring in the exhibition leaving the De Young Museum in San Francisco for the High Museum of Art in Atlanta (June 23 through September 29, 2013). Only 10 of those paintings will visit The Frick Collection in New York (October 22, 2013 through January 19, 2014).

Last year, a larger exhibit of 48 paintings from the Mauritshuis toured two museums in Japan: The Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Art (TMMA) and the Kobe City Museum.  The Mauritshuis exhibit at TMMA included a second Vermeer painting, Diana and her nymphs (now on display at the Gemeentemuseum Den Haag). After the North American tour, Palazzo Fava in Bologna, Italy, will host 40 paintings from the Mauritshuis while the 17th century palace undergoes an expansion and renovation until mid-2014. More than 100 paintings from the Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis have traveled to the Gemeentemuseum in The Hague.

Portrait of Rembrandt
(1606-1669) with a Gorget
,
Rembrandt (studio copy)
The Mauritshuis opened as a Dutch state museum on January 1, 1822 as the "Royal Cabinets of Paintings and Curiosities." The catalogue, Girl with a Pearl Earring: Dutch Paintings from the Mauritshuis (Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, includes "The History of the Mauritshuis and Its Collection" by Lea van der Vinde:
As its new name made clear, the museum did not merely exhibit paintings, for the entire ground floor was filled with a colorful display of "rarities." The art collection hung upstairs, where the walls were covered from floor to ceiling with paintings. Both collections had been formed over the years by various stadtholders; their turbulent history spans more than four centuries.
Rachel Ruysch
Vase with Flowers
1700
Mauritshuis
Half of the paintings at the De Young Mauritshuis show had been acquired by The Hague institution in the 20th century. Provenance information in the catalogue was provided in the section describing the painting and appeared incomplete. Many of the paintings have been restored in recent years. For example, infrared reflectography in the conservation studio in 1998 showed an underdrawing on a Rembrandt painting purchased in 1768, Portrait of Rembrandt (1606-1669) with a Gorget, that indicates it is a studio copy of a self-portrait of Rembrandt at the Germanisches National Museum in Nuremberg. The last painting highlighted in the catalogue is Vase of Flowers (1700) by Rachel Ruysch,  a married woman and mother of 10 children who painted until her death at the age of 84. A recent restoration removed several old layers of varnish.

The ticket to the Mauritshuis paintings at the De Young included entrance to an adjoining exhibition of Rembrandt's (and contemporaries) etchings from the collection of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

April 13, 2013

Francisco Goya's 1978 "Witches in Air" is subject of auction house theft in Danny Boyle's fictional film "Trance"

Francisco Goya's Witches in Air, 1798
Museo del Prado, Madrid, Spain
by Catherine Schofield Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor

In Danny Boyle's fictional movie, Trance, Francisco Goya's $25 million painting is stolen during an auction in a choreographed heist. One of the thieves, Simon (James McAvoy), works at the auction house. Simon betrays his accomplices before a bump on his head precedes a case of amnesia. Rosario Dawson is the hypnotherapist and Vincent Cassel (who played an art thief in Oceans 13) is the criminal boss applying the pressure on the bewildered lad with the big blue eyes and Scottish brogue to recall where he hid the stolen painting.

In reality, Goya's Witches in Air is owned by the Museo del Prado in Madrid, Spain. The 1798 oil painting is not on display:

Three bare-chested characters wearing dunce caps hold a fourth, nude character in the air while another lies on the floor, covering his ears, A sixth figure flees, his head covered with a white cloth. With his hand, he makes the gesture intended to protect him from the evil eye. At the right of the scene, a donkey stands out against the neutral background.
This was one of six canvases Goya sold to the Duke and Duchess of Osuna in 1798, as decoration for their country house in La Alameda. They are linked to the etchings from his Caprichos series, in which he presented scenes of witches and witchcraft similar to this one.
This painting was acquired by the Prado Museum in 1999 with funds from the Villaescusa legacy.
The film also includes references to Rembrandt's "Sea of Galilee" stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in 1990 (the whereabouts of Dutch master's only seascape is publicly unknown) and an imagined room of "lost paintings" including Caravaggio's Nativity (stolen from a church in Palermo in 1969 and rumored to have been eaten by pigs).

March 15, 2013

Novi Sad City Museum welcomes home "The old man with the fur cap" -- but did Serbian police recover a Rembrandt painting?

The Novi Sad City Museum welcomes home
"The old man with the fur cap"
This week did Serbian police recover a painting by Rembrandt or a known fake? The Portrait of the Father stolen from the Novi Sad City Museum in 2006 has been deemed a fake Rembrandt, according to ARCA Trustee Anthony Amore and Tom Mashberg, authors of "Stealing Rembrandts" (Palgrave MacMillan, 2011).

An appendix in "Stealing Rembrandts" includes Portrait of Rembrandt's Father as one of more than 80 "Rembrandt" artworks stolen in the past century (excludes works looted by the Nazis during WW II).

According to CODART, the specialists in Dutch and Flemish art in museums worldwide, the painting is likely a copy of a Rembrandt painting at Tyrolean State Museum in Austria: Old Man with Fur Cap, 1630.

The Novi Sad "Rembrandt" oil painting was recovered 60 kilometers (40 miles) south of Novi Sad (BBC) and more than four people have been arrested in connection with the robbery.

According to Nicholas Wood in The New York Times ("Rubens and Rembrandt, a Day's Loot for Balkan Gangs" February 19, 2006), two masked men carrying a pistol robbed the Navi Sad City Museum on January 8, 2006:
In just 15 minutes, they tied up an unarmed night watchman and a museum guide and, standing on antique furniture, lifted the paintings off the walls. One of the four works taken in the January theft was attributed to Rubens, another to Rembrandt.
The thieves then 'walked out the front door ... loaded their haul into a parked car and drove away, confident that the police had not been informed' because the museum did not have an alarm system. After years of war and a struggling economy, the city had scheduled a $50,000 alarm system to be installed on January 15 (the thieves struck one week early). The stolen paintings came from the collection of Branko Illic, a doctor. [Woods, NYT]

On March 13, the Novi Sad City Museum welcomed home "Old man in a fur cap"; three paintings remain missing: 

Unknown Flemish painter,
 Life Head of Christ, oil on panel
Rubens's studio,
the first half of the 17th century,
 bust of Seneca oil on board
Pier Francesco Mola (1612-1666)
Night landscape with fishermen, oil on canvas

October 5, 2012

"Rembrandt" painting seized by Croydon police four months ago declared a fake (Scotland Yard confirmed to Croydon Advertiser)

Reporter Gareth Davies, in an exclusive article, reported the arrest of a businessman 'in possesion of what is believed to be a stolen Rembrandt painting' in June (This Croydon Today, UK, 'Stolen Rembrandt' painting seized in Croydon police raid, June 22, 2012):
The oil on canvas, believed to be worth more than £2 million, was recovered during a special police operation in Croydon High Street on Monday last week. A man in his sixties was arrested and taken to Croydon Police Station. Scotland Yard said the arrest was part of an ongoing Proceeds of Crime Act investigation by officers from the Met's specialist crime directorate. Detectives refused to comment on whether a painting by Dutch master Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn was among the items seized during the operation. But a source told the Advertiser: "The way the officers were handling the painting and keeping it safe, they clearly believed it was a Rembrandt." It is understood the painting has been sent away to experts to be authenticated. The arrested businessman, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, lives in Surrey.
Tom Gardner for the Daily Mail asked: "Has 'stolen Rembrandt worth £2million' been found in CROYDON? Businessman arrested after police raid as art experts try to verify painting" (June 22, 2012):
Police were seen treating the potentially precious object with extreme caution as they removed the work from the building in south London following the raid on Monday June 11. Now experts have been called in to examine the work of art to establish if the work recovered, really is a Rembrandt masterpiece. Scotland Yard, who are being tight-lipped about which one of the 205 currently missing works by the Dutch master, also arrested a businessman in his sixties. Detectives from the Metropolitan Police's specialist crime directorate made the discovery during a long-running investigation aimed at recovering assets from criminals.
Gardner interviewed Dick Ellis, an ARCA Trustee and lecturer:
Security expert Richard Ellis, who has worked with the Met Police's specialist Art and Antiques squad, said: 'If this is a genuine Rembrandt oil painting, I think £2million would be a massive undervaluation. 
'If you were to put one before an auction today it would fetch between £30million and £50million. 
Mr Ellis, who last year was part of the team which recovered two paintings by Pablo Picasso stolen from a Swiss exhibition in 2008 in Belgrade, Serbia, added: 'To sell a real Rembrandt on the open market would be really, really difficult. 
'Any buyer undertaking their due diligence would look at the catalogues of Rembrandts and it wouldn't take them very long to see it was stolen.' 
'Stealing to order is fiction. They may get stolen and used as a form of currency or as collateral. 
'The media would publish the valuation at the time of the theft and the criminal would work on the basis that it would be worth to them anywhere between three and ten per cent, because that's what it can get passed across on the black market. 
'It acts as a sort of international currency.'
In October, less than four months after the initial report, "GarethD2011" reported for the "Croydon Advertiser" that the "Rembrandt masterpiece seized in Croydon was a fake" (October 4, 2012):
A REMBRANDT masterpiece seized in Croydon was a fake, the Advertiser can reveal. Businessman Shaun Stopford-Claremont, 62, was arrested in possession of the painting during a special police operation in Croydon High Street in June. The painting was then sent to top art experts to be authenticated. If a genuine work of the Dutch master it could have been worth as much as £50 million. But this week Scotland Yard confirmed to the Advertiser the painting is a forgery. Mr Stopford-Claremont, of Redhill, Surrey, has since been re-bailed until December 11. His arrest was part of an ongoing Proceeds of Crime Act investigation by officers from the Met's specialist crime directorate. Police would not initially confirm the painting was among a number of items seized.

July 12, 2012

Joshua Knelman publishes the essay "Headache Art" in the Spring/Summer 2012 issue of The Journal of Art Crime

Joshua Knelman's essay "Headache Art" is an excerpt from his book Hot Art (Tin House, 2012) and is published with permission from the author in the Spring/Summer 2012 issue of The Journal of Art Crime.
Giles Waterfield, director of the Dulwich Picture Gallery in London, was supposed to be relaxing. He woke up in Scotland on his first holiday that year, excited about attending the Edinburgh International Festival—music, poetry, literature. He hadn’t even left a telephone number where he could be contacted by staff.
Waterfield was out of bed by 9 AM and strolled from the art dealer’s apartment where he was staying to nearby Waverley train station, where he bought a copy of The Times. He scanned the front page of the most venerated newspaper in England. The date was August 15, 1981. “It was right there in bold letters: ‘Rembrandt Stolen for Third Time,’” remembered Waterfield.
Joshua Knelman is a journalist, based in Toronto, whose first book, Hot Art, was recently published by Tin House.

March 22, 2012

Joshua Knelman Signed "Hot Art" Tuesday night at Book Soup in Los Angeles

Joshua Knelman speaking at Book Soup
by Catherine Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor

LOS ANGELES - Journalist Joshua Knelman, author of Hot Art: Chasing Thieves and Detectives Through the Secret World of Stolen Art, spoke before an intimate crowd at an informal book signing Tuesday night at Book Soup on Sunset Boulevard.

Recovering from jet lag after arriving from an international book fair in Beijing where he had spoken to a large crown of English-speaking expats, Knelman, settled into a corner of the bookstore, and pointed out the presence of one of the people featured in his book: Giles Waterfield.

Mr. Waterfield, an Associate Professor at the Courtauld Institute of Art, is currently a guest scholar at the Getty Research Institute (The Artist's and Photographer's Studio).  In 1981, he was director of the Dulwich Picture Gallery in London when on vacation in Scotland he read a newspaper headline "Rembrandt Stolen for Third Time." Rembrandt's Jacob de Gheyn III, nicknamed The Takeaway Rembrandt, had been stolen.  Knelman recounts Waterfield's recovery of the small Rembrandt portrait in Chapter 7 under the title "Headache Art".   

"The Takeaway Rembrandt"
Joshua Knelman was just 26 years old and head of research at the Canadian magazine, The Walrus, when he covered a burglarized art gallery in the Forst Hill section of Toronto.  He soon found himself having coffee at the Caffe Doria in the Rosedale area with the man who would admit to having committed the theft -- a pleasant enough person who tried to manipulate Knelman into accepting the stolen property.

One of the questions raised to Knelman from the audience was the question of legacy -- the recent murder conviction of former Detective Stephanie Lazarus, whom Don Hrycyk on the Los Angeles Police Department's Art Theft Squad had been training to succeed him in 2009 at the time of her arrest, brought up again the issue of who will continue the work of Hrycyk.  Knelman said that the LAPD has not yet found a successor and that Hrycyk is currently working without a partner.  "Detective Hrycyk, with 39 years on the LAPD, is the 8th most senior officer of 10,000 police officer," Knelman said.  "Although there is no retirement age in the LAPD, it will take years for Hrycyk to train someone."

Another question asked was as to why there were so few art crime squads in North America.  "The units are in the secondary markets of Los Angeles and Montreal and not the primary art markets of New York City and Toronto," Knelman said.  "Clearly there should be one in New York.  Recovery rates increase when detectives have the time to spend getting to know the art community, building trust with the art dealers and collectors.  Unlike other property crimes, recovery of artworks may take decades."

And where does the stolen art go? asked another person.  "That is the billion dollar question," Knelman said.  "There are two separate categories.  The very famous stolen masterpieces can be used as currency, but the other stolen artworks, 95% of the stolen art which is valued at less than $100,000 or even $25,000, is laundered back into the art market, stolen in Los Angeles, sold in New York and displayed in Vancouver."

Knelman will be discussing his book, Hot Art, tonight at 8 p.m. at The Flag Art Foundation in New York City.  You can read more about his book here on the ARCAblog.

August 16, 2011

Tuesday, August 16, 2011 - , No comments

Anthony Amore Comments on the Alleged Rembrandt Drawing "The Judgement" found in Encino

The stolen 'Rembrandt' (AP Photo/Gus Ruelas)
Anthony Amore posted on Facebook on August 16 that "The Judgement", the alleged drawing by Rembrandt stolen from a hotel in Marino del Rey on Saturday night, was found last night.  You may read more information here at this NBC link: "Rembrandt Lost and Found." Where was it found? Encino.

Update: The Los Angeles Times reports that the drawing was found in a church parking lot in Encino.

Another update on September 12, 2011: The Los Angeles County Sherriff's department is holding the alleged $250,000 Rembrandt drawing until the owners can prove that they have title to it, according to John Rogers reporting for the Associated Press "Case of LA's stolen Rembrandt intrigues art world".  If the owners cannot prove authenticity and title to the legal authorities in order to recover the artwork, how did they expect to sell it for one-quarter of a million dollars? Anthony Amore, security director for the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum and author of "Stealing Rembrandts" tries to put some perspective on the case.

ALR's Chris Marinello and ISGM's Anthony Amore Quoted About A Stolen Rembrandt Drawing from a California Hotel

Rembrandt's drawing "The Judgement"
 (The Linearis Institute)
Christopher Marinello, General Counsel for the Art Loss Register and a speaker at ARCA's International Art Crime Conference for two years, and ARCA Trustee Anthony Amore, Security Director for the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, are quoted in a few articles about the theft of a Rembrandt Drawing from a Ritz-Carlton hotel in Marina Del Rey in Los Angeles.

The 1655 drawing, titled "The Judgement" and measuring 11 by 6 inches, is owned by the Linearis Institute of San Francisco. It was stolen Saturday evening with a diversion tactic: the curator was distracted by a potential sale while another person grabbed the quill ink-and-pencil drawing.

You may read a few of the articles here:




The latter article by Chris Reynolds for The Los Angeles Times describes more lucrative hotel robberies.

June 26, 2011

History of Art Vandalism: The 1985 Destruction of Rembrandt's "Danaë" at The Hermitage Museum

Rembrandt's Danaë, Oil on Canvas, 185x202.5 cm
The State Hermitage Museum
by Kirsten Hower, ARCA Blog Contributor

While Greek mythology may not claim her as the most beautiful woman in the world, she is certainly one of Rembrandt’s most beautiful women: Danaë. Voluptuous and naked, she reclines across the eight-by-ten canvas, looking into the distance beyond the frame of the painting. This painting may not be Rembrandt’s most famous work or even his most famous painting of a female, but the Danaë has certainly drawn attention from scholars and vandals alike.

While scholars may be fascinated by the beauty and technique of Rembrandt’s peculiar but stunning Danaë, there are others that are not quite as fond of this painting. On June 15, 1985, while hanging on the walls of the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, the Danaë was attacked by an undisclosed ‘madman’ who threw sulfuric acid on the painting and attacked it with a knife. Conservation efforts went into action, but it was questioned whether it was too little too late (the Hermitage’s restoration staff were not on duty at the time) or whether the efforts would yield any results. The painting had been badly damaged and to this day is not the same. Conservationists struggled with the ethics of repainting the damaged parts of the painting but decided against full restoration (meaning repainting the parts that had been damaged) because it would mean that the painting was no longer a true Rembrandt:
In the resulting painting, ‘some parts are 100 percent Rembrandt, some are 50 percent Rembrandt, and some had to be redone,’ Mr. Gerasimov [a staff member of the Hermitage] said. ‘The left thigh is slightly restored. The right arm was 90 percent damaged but is now back to normal. The pearls were intact, but the jewels needed work. What the visitor sees is not ‘the original,’ and we would never put it forward as such. But the spirit of Rembrandt is intact.’

Classical mythology tells us the story of Danaë, daughter of King Acrisius of Argos who was told of a prophecy that his grandchild would kill him. To keep this from happening, Acrisius had his daughter locked in a tower in which no one could get to her. However, he had not considered the infamous lust of Zeus, who was thoroughly in lust with Acrisius’ beautiful daughter. The god of thunder changed himself into a golden rain and fell on Danaë, impregnating her with a son who would become as famous as his mother: Perseus.

The part of the story depicted in Rembrandt’s painting is not entirely clear. Danaë’s upraised hand, as if she is warding someone off or welcoming them forward, suggests that there is someone beyond our field of vision. Even the older maid, partially hidden behind the curtains of Danaë’s luxurious bed, is looking in the same direction of Danaë. Did Rembrandt defer from the traditional story and imply the appearance of Zeus in another form to Danaë in her confinement? Is that the scene that the two women are looking towards?

The appearance of a maidservant is not traditionally a part of the story either. However, realistically, her appearance is not all that surprising: even in confinement a princess would be likely to have a maidservant to take care of her. While there is this practicality to her appearance, she also serves a second purpose which is to emphasize the beauty of Danaë. The wrinkled, leathery skin of the maid is a perfect foil for the soft, pale beauty of Danaë who is almost entirely exposed to the viewer. Only her lower legs are hidden from view, creating a sensual figure moments before seduction.

The appearance of the cupid above Danaë’s head is also interesting, though not unusual. Both Titian and Correggio depicted their Danaës accompanied by angels as the golden rain fell upon them. However, this golden cupid, with a tortured expression upon his face, is completely gold and could be interpreted as representing the golden rain which impregnated Danaë. His expression is a bit troublesome though unless it is meant to allude to the fact that Danaë was impregnated without her consent. If not for this reason, then what reason is there for his tortured expression?

While she may not be the same Danaë that Rembrandt painted, the essence is still there—despite being attacked by a ‘madman’ with undisclosed motives. Was it the nudity that inspired some religious-driven attempt to destroy a woman representative of tales of pagan lust? We may never know.

Source:
John Russell, "Healing a Disfigured Rembrandt's Wounds," The New York Times, August 31, 1997.

June 20, 2011

Article Adapted from Anthony Amore's Book "Stealing Rembrandts: The Untold Stories of Notorious Art Heists" Published in The Boston Globe

Anthony Amore, the director of security for the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum and an instructor in 2009 for ARCA's International Art Crime Studies Program, has co-written a book with journalist Tom Mashberg, "Stealing Rembrandts: The Untold Stories of Notorious Art Thefts" (MacMillan Publishers, July, 2011). You may read an article adapted from the book in today's Boston Globe here.

February 6, 2011

The Detroit Institute of Arts' exhibit, "Fakes, Forgeries, and Mysteries", Posts Videos on YouTube to Augment Its Painting and Sculpture Exhibit

by Catherine Schofield Sezgin

The Detroit Institute of Arts' "Fakes, Forgeries, and Mysteries" spotlights museum assets of questionable authenticity and provenance. The ARCA blog gives you links to the exhibition's videos on YouTube, the media coverage, and an interview with the show's curator.

The museum posts riveting weekly videos on YouTube elaborating on work behind the exhibition. In the first video, DIA’s Director Graham W. J. Beal introduces the exhibit’s curator, Associate Curator of European Paintings Salvador Salort-Pons, who he says has special archival research skills, and the museum’s science lab -- one of the few in the country -- run by a research scientist who provides information about materials used in art.

In the second video, “Portrait of a Young Woman” discusses a painting brought into the collection in 1936 that was once exhibited in a Leonardo da Vinci exhibit and when recently examined by x-ray was shown to have pigments of zinc and chromium which were not available until the 19th century.

The third video, "Rembrandt's Son", shows the analysis of “Titus,” a 19th century Rembrandt forgery who’s canvas weave seen through x-ray showed a 19th century manufactured quality.

The fourth video is about "The Head of a King", once considered an ancient artifact and now clearly re-labeled as a 20th century copy.

In CNN’s online article by Laura Allsop, "Spot the fake: The art world's pricey problem with forgery," Noah Charney, ARCA’s founder and President, explains that forgers are frustrated or thwarted artists:
"Most of them that we know of were initially trying to be artists themselves, their original creative works were dismissed at some point in the early part of their career."
"So the primary motivation for most art forgers really is sort of passive-aggressive revenge, with financial motivation taking a very much secondary role," he continued.
While most forgers are artists, he said, some are art conservators too, so they are skilled at getting around the scientific techniques used to verify an artwork. And not only do they produce counterfeit artworks; they can also produce convincing counterfeit documents verifying their bogus works. With these skills, forgers and forgeries can sometimes go undetected for years, making it difficult to say whether or not the numbers of forgeries are rising.
The New York Times reported in an article by Eve M. Kahn, “Keeping It Real: A Show Made of Fakes”, when the exhibit opened with examples of the institution's misattributions:
“An English country-road scene with a fake Monet signature is now known to be the work of the landscape painter Alfred East. A granite head of an Egyptian king has turned out to be a Berlin carver’s 1920s handiwork. An ebony table thought to have belonged to the Medicis is actually an 1840s Florentine copy.”
Writer Emily Sharpe reviews the exhibit for The Art Newspaper and reports on how art- historical research solved the "mystery" of the misattributed Monet.

On her blog, Real Clear Arts, for the Art Journal, columnist Judith H. Dobrzynski reviews the exhibit from afar, provides insightful commentary and links to local coverage of the exhibit.

The Seattle Times provides coverage of the exhibit by David Runk of the Associated Press in the article "Detroit museum exhibit to examine fakes, forgeries" which discusses the history of "Still Life with Carnations" once hoped to be a painting by Vincent van Gogh.

Via email, curator Dr. Salvador Salort-Pons responded to a few questions posed by the ARCA blog.
ARCA blog: Dr. Salort-Pons, the director of DIA said in the first video that you have special archival research skills. Could you elaborate on the kind of work you do in authenticating or discrediting these artworks?
Dr. Salort-Pons: More than authenticate or discredit a work of art, a curator tries to understand its true nature. We attempt to answer questions such as: What is it? When and how it was created? Who did it? What does it represent? Why is it important in an art historical context? Who owned it in the past? In the process of answering these questions and others we may find new information that reveal that the work we are investigating is not what we thought it was 50 or 100 years ago. I am continuously updating and revising the information about the DIA’s painting collection. It is part of my job.

There are, in my opinion, at least three approaches (curator, conservator and scientist) when we investigate a work of art. The curator’s approach includes two types of work: 1. The art historical research, which is the work performed in archives and libraries and it is oriented to find historical and scholarly documentation related to the artwork. 2. The connoisseurship research, which is based on the curators experience in looking at works of art especially in the flesh but also through photographs. It is, many times, an intuitive approach and it requires some degree of a natural sensibility and a trained eye. In short, a work of art speaks to a connoisseur in terms of style, authorship, authenticity, et cetera. The other two approaches relate to the work of conservators and scientists. They perform different tests on the artwork in order to understand its physical characteristics, construction, and elemental composition of materials among other things. When researching a work of art in depth the inputs of the curator, conservator and scientist are equally important.
ARCA blog: This exhibit shows the museum audience the process of research and authentication. In the past some museums have hidden fakes and forgeries, or misattributions, in storage and refused to elaborate about the process. What kind of response have you received from curators at other institutions?
Dr. Salort-Pons: The response has been highly positive from my colleagues. In the past there was some concern that the discovery and publication of a forgery in a collection might damage the reputation of a museum. As one of my colleagues emailed me recently “Times have changed, and we are all more enlightened about these things now”. Just look back into history and see that the great accomplishments in any field have been achieved through intelligent hard-work that involved good decisions but also some errors. Nobody can dispute that the DIA possesses one of the best art collections in North America and that it is a world-class museum. Yes, after 125 of acquiring art extremely well we transparently acknowledge that we have made some mistakes and that it is part of the process of the DIA’s successful collecting history. Our fakes and forgeries -- some of them connected to fascinating stories -- are just a microscopic fraction of the overall museum’s holdings. The DIA’s worldwide known masterpieces are permanently installed in the galleries.
ARCA blog: Do you think this exhibit has any kind of influence on the type of paintings that might be donated by supporters? Have you or your museum been concerned about any kind of resistance from contributors?
Dr. Salort-Pons: I would answer “no” to both questions. Some of our forgeries are quite sophisticated and came to the DIA when technologies and art historical knowledge were not as advanced as they are today. The DIA is a highly professional institution that includes a group of outstanding curators, conservators and scientists. We have the art historical expertise, and we are equipped with one of the best conservation labs in the country. Furthermore, our collection committee follow clear and strict guidelines that guarantee, among other things, that any artwork accessioned is of high quality and of interest for the DIA as well as, of course, authentic. I believe that supporters and contributors of our museum are aware of this. Fakes, Forgeries and Mysteries is a good example of how competent the DIA's staff is and that our museum is a top institution in terms research and technology.
Detroit Institute of Arts' exhibit, Fakes, Forgeries, and Mysteries, is open through April 10, 2011. It's an excellent reason to visit Detroit. However, a friend of mine recently visited the museum and said, after reading about the exhibit, that she would like to return to see Fakes, Forgeries and Mysteries but admitted that in numerous trips to the DIA over two months, she found the main collection so interesting that she hadn't left time for the special exhibits. So it seems that Dr. Salort-Pons is correct, an exhibit in the museum admitting to the uncertainty in the art market won't diminish museum revenues.