Wednesday 24 July 2013

Art to Ashes

Last October, thieves broke into the Kunsthal gallery in Rotterdam and stole seven extremely valuable paintings off the walls.

The thieves took the following works:

Pablo Picasso's Harlequin Head
Claude Monet's Waterloo Bridge, London
Claude Monet's Charing Cross Bridge, London
Henri Matisse's Reading Girl in White and Yellow
Paul Gauguin's Girl in Front of Open Window
Meyer de Haan's Self-Portrait
Lucian Freud's Woman with Eyes Closed
It now, horrifyingly, appears that these works of art may have been burnt in an attempt to destroy the evidence of the crime.

By way of background, three Romanians were arrested in January 2013 on suspicion of having stolen the paintings, however these were not found. Subsequently, Olga Dogaru, the mother of one of those charged with stealing the paintings, claimed that she had buried the paintings in an abandoned house, but later dug up the art and burned them after police began searching the village for the stolen works.

The Associated Press now reports that forensic experts have determined that ash from Dogaru's oven contained "'small fragments of painting primer, the remains of canvas, the remains of paint' and copper and steel nails, some of which pre-dated the 20th century." But that "Ernest Oberlander-Tarnoveanu, director of Romania's National History Museum...refused to say definitively that the ashes were from the stolen paintings. He said justice officials would make that decision. He did venture, however, that if the remains were those of the paintings, it was 'a crime against humanity to destroy universal art'."

The Associated Press explains that the next step will be to compare the ashes to what was known about the missing paintings to determine if the remnants are consistent with the stolen works. Let's hope by some miracle that they are not.

Source: Associated Press, 17 July 2013


Miri Frankel said...

Olga Dogaru now claims that she lied about burning the paintings, according to this report:

Let's hope she's telling the truth this time! Though the question still remains as to what did happen to the paintings if she didn't destroy them.

Andy J said...

There's an interesting follow-up to this story by Mira Sundara Rajan on the 1709 blog, looking at the moral rights issues.
1709 blog