one woman's view into a world of creativity

Stolen Art, Crisped?

Breaking news in the art world… and it makes me sick.

The two sources I’ve read about this on:

New York Times

Huffington Post

NPR

Apparently a slew of famous paintings were stolen from the Kunsthal Netherland museum…

The stolen paintings were: Pablo Picasso’s 1971 “Harlequin Head”; Claude Monet’s 1901 “Waterloo Bridge, London” and “Charing Cross Bridge, London”; Henri Matisse’s 1919 “Reading Girl in White and Yellow”; Paul Gauguin’s 1898 “Girl in Front of Open Window”; Meyer de Haan’s “Self-Portrait,” around 1890; and Lucian Freud’s 2002 work “Woman with Eyes Closed.”

…and now forensics scientists are analyzing ashes from a wood stove belonging to the main suspect’s mother.  They think she burned them.  If you’re like me, and the possibility make your stomach drop and heave in the most unpleasant of ways, you may need a moment or two to recouperate.  I’ll wait.

Feeling any better yet?  Here’s the rest of the story.  The Huffington Post says Olga Dogaru, the mother of the cheif suspect, “told investigators she was scared for her son after he was arrested in January and buried the art in an abandoned house and then in a cemetery in the village of Caracliu. She said she later dug them up and burned them in February after police began searching the village for the stolen works.”

The New York Times reports, “To Olga Dogaru, a lifelong resident of the tiny Romanian village of Carcaliu, the strangely beautiful artworks her son had brought home in a suitcase four months earlier had become a curse…But if the paintings and drawings no longer existed, Radu Dogaru, her son, could be free from prosecution, she reasoned. So Mrs. Dogaru told the police that on a freezing night in February, she placed all seven works — which included Monet’s 1901 “Waterloo Bridge, London”; Gauguin’s 1898 “Girl in Front of Open Window”; and Picasso’s 1971 “Harlequin Head” — in a wood-burning stove used to heat saunas and incinerated them.

Mrs. Dogaru’s confession could be pure invention, and the works could be discovered hidden away somewhere. But this week, after examining ashes from her oven, forensic scientists at Romania’s National History Museum appeared on the verge of confirming the art world’s worst fears: her tale is true.”

The New York Times goes on to account that the forensics team “had discovered material that classical French, Dutch, Spanish and other European artists typically used to prepare canvases for oil painting, as well as the “remains of colors, like red, yellow, green, blue, gray.” The pigments included cinnabar, chromium green and lazurite — a blue-green copper compound — as well as tin-lead yellow, which artists stopped using after the 19th century because of toxicity. In addition, copper nails and tacks made by blacksmiths before the Industrial Revolution and used to tack canvas down were found in the debris.”

This story highlights the problem of stolen art work — who in their right mind would steal it and try to sell it?  Obviously the desperate or the not very bright, or both.  For art heists as big as this one, the reputation of the artwork involved brings them enormous price tags, but the reputation also works against the thief.  Anyone big enough in the art world to be interested in purchasing the pieces will also be aware that the art recently disappeared, stolen.  Art collectors in the know would probably report the thief rather than purchase it and get caught themselves.  Let’s face it, as we learned in the world’s most expensive art documentary, one of the main reasons art collectors buy expensive art is to show it off.  Nobody wants to buy famous art that everybody knows is stolen.

But the sad case is that Mrs. Dogaru decided if she couldn’t get rid of the artwork, she could burn it.

What a tragic loss for the art world.

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