Showing posts with label Art Theft Alert. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Art Theft Alert. Show all posts

April 7, 2017

CCTV footage released of suspects who stole two iconic Māori paintings in Auckland, NZ

Image Credit: Auckland City Police
CCTV footage released by Auckland City Police shows blurry images of two men, wearing bandanas, black gloves and dark sweatshirts involved in the smash and grab burglary at Parnell’s International Art Center last Saturday.  

According to eyewitness testimony, a stolen Ford Courier ute (utility vehicle) drove up Parnell Road between 3:30 and 4:00 am on April 01, 2017 to the front of the gallery, where it then turned and reversed into the plate glass window at the front of the gallery allowing access to the artworks. 

Image Credit: Auckland City Police
One suspect exited the ute at or near the same time a second vehicle, a white 2016 Holden Commodore, pictured below, arrived driven by an accomplice.  Both men then entered the gallery through the broken window and made off with two iconic Māori portraits of Chieftainess Ngatai – Raure and Chief Ngatai-Raure, by Gottfried Lindauer. 

Image Credit: Auckland City Police
Lindauer, a Czech-born Kiwi artist painted in the the late 19th and early 20th century.  He is famous for painting detailed portraits of Māori in customary Māori attire, often with pounamu toki ornaments. 

The signed and dated oil on canvas portrait of Chieftainess Ngatai – Raure was painted in 1884 and is valued at $350,000 - $450,000 NZD.  It shows the Māori chieftainess wearing a cloak.  Her hair is adorned with two Huia feathers and she is wearing a hei-tiki necklace with one visible pounamu earring. 

The signed and dated oil on canvas portrait of Chief Ngatai-Raure was also painted in 1884 and has the same estimated value.  This portrait shows the Māori chief adorned with two Huia feathers and a pounamu earring holding a greenstone mere. 

Earlier this week a third Gottfried Lindauer portrait, of Chief Renata Kawepo sold for $227,000 at Dunbar Sloane, New Zealand's leading and largest auctioneer of fine art and antiques showing the value of this artist's portraiture. Previously, the highest price paid for a Lindauer portrait sold was $198,000.

Any information on the thieves or the white 2016 Holden Commodore should be reported to Auckland City Police on (09) 302 6832, or anonymously via Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

By:  Lynda Albertson

April 3, 2017

Art Theft Alert: What the Guardian later called a “garden variety ram-raid”


What the Guardian later called a “garden variety ram-raid” happened around 4:00 am on the morning of Saturday, 1 April 2016. In a tree-lined upmarket street close to the city centre in Auckland, New Zealand, a vehicle, later recovered by police at the scene, smashed the plate-glass front window of the International Art Centre in Parnell.  A sign written on the window had proclaimed that an “Important and Rare Art” auction was to take place a few days later.  A second vehicle was reportedly seen leaving the scene shortly afterwards.

Displayed in the gallery’s window, and taken during the raid, were the intended centrepieces of that auction: two companion portraits, painted by Bohemian-born and Viennese-educated émigré artist Gottfried Lindauer in New Zealand in the late nineteenth century, entitled Chieftainess Ngati-Raure and Chief Ngati-Raure.

The auction house selling the works had valued them in the run-up to the auction at around NZ $350,000 - $450,000 each. Local art world figures expressed dismay at the thefts, characterising Lindauer’s works as “mesmerising and … a significant and critically important record of Maori culture.” Immediate and extensive publicity both in New Zealand and elsewhere would seem to ensure that a legitimate mainstream sale or disposal of the artworks appears unlikely.  



Within 24 hours media reports tentatively drew a possible link with earlier and speculative internet chatter expressing anger that the portraits of two ancestors were being offered for sale rather than returned to the descendents of the sitters, but in the hours and days after the raid, little is known for certain and the works remain missing. 

Any information can be relayed to New Zealand Police in Auckland Police on:
00 64 9 302 6832 

or anonymously to the New Zealand Crimestoppers tip-line: 
0800 555 111

By Judge Arthur Tompkins

November 7, 2016

Missing: "Pardon of Assisi" (1631) by French painter Jean Lhomme

Yesterday's local news in Italy reported that a painting, commissioned by Pope Urban VII, has disappeared following the earthquake that struck the Church of Santo Stefano, located in the zone of Nottoria, 13 km from Norcia in central Italy. 


The large altar painting, "Pardon of Assisi" is 193 x 142 cm in dimension and was painted by the French painter Jean L'homme in 1631. The first publicized images of the artwork related to the possible theft were posted by Professor Alberto D'Atanasio on Facebook October 06, 2016.   


The incident is currently being investigated by the Perugia division of Italy's Carabinieri del Nucleo Tutela del Patrimonio.  Initial reports seemed to indicate that perhaps there was a possibility that the artwork had been moved elsewhere for safekeeping, albeit without stellar coordination.  This morning however, Italian newspaper La Repubblica quoted Don. Marco Rufini, the priest responsible for the church as saying he thinks the work was stolen by professionals.  The priest is quoted in the newspaper's article as saying:

"Lo hanno staccato dal supporto, lo hanno messo in terra, quindi hanno tagliato lateralmente la tela per separarla dalla cornice", riferisce il parroco di Norcia." [“They have taken the painting down from its support, putting it on the ground, then they have cut the canvas to separate it from the frame.”]

While cutting a painting from the frame doesn't necessarily indicate the work of professionals, (many stolen paintings taken from bumbling as well as professional thieves have suffered similar destructive fates), the current notification seems to suggest an actual theft may have occurred and that perhaps the artwork was not merely removed for safekeeping.

Italians have an interesting word for thieves that opportunistically loot during miseries of others.  They are called "gli sciacalli" "the jackals" an apropos name for anyone who would stoop so low as to destroy what mother nature itself hasn't already destroyed. 


Video taken during this RAI3 interview with Don. Marco Rufini clearly shows the church's level of destruction following the October earthquakes and the fact that there appears to have been, at the time of this filming, at least one additional artwork still on exhibition and potentially exposed to the elements inside the severely damaged church.  This situation lends support to the fact that the painting was likely accessible to opportunistic looters, now it will be up to law enforcement to discover who they were.

If the painting has in fact been stolen, the thief, or thieves, could be prosecuted article 624bis of the Italian Penal Code, and under Article 61 and 625 of the Criminal Code.



By:  Lynda Albertson

October 16, 2016

Dear Tourists, Remember the motto: “Take only pictures, leave only memories.”

Its an age old adage, a memorable saying which holds some important fact of experience that is considered true by many people: 

Always leave things a little better than when you arrived. Take only pictures, leave only memories. You'll be happy you did

But for some tourists, building memories includes acts of selfish vandalism. 

This week, yet again, tourists have tried to chip away at what remains of the city of Pompeii. As if surviving an earthquake, only to be completely enveloped by the volcanic ash of a volcano wasn't insult enough, two Dutch tourists have brazenly walked off with part of a fresco from one of the most poignant villas of Pompeii.

La Casa della Venere in Bikini 
Nicked from the House of Julia Felix aka La Casa della Venere in Bikini (the House of Venus in a bikini); the villa dates to between AD 62 and 79, and stands on the well-trafficked via dell'Abbondanza.  The villa was reopened to the public this past winter following substantial conservation efforts as the site has already been subject to disrepair and predation. 

After the earthquake struck Pompeii in 62 A.D the owner of this extravagant home, the daughter of Spurius, decided to repurpose her villa, transforming portions of it into apartments, a workshop and a public bathhouse. The home's triclinium had beds made of marble and the bathing complex included an outdoor pool, a calidarium, a tepidarium and a frigidarium.  The villa and its amenities were converted most likely to ease the housing shortage caused by the earthquake and to profit from the fact that Pompeii's Forum and Stabian Baths were undergoing renovations. 



We know the history of the villa's renovations from a notice painted on the façade which read “elegant bathing facilities, shops with annexed apartments upstairs and independent apartments on the first floor are offered for rent to respectable people”.

Its doubtful that Julia Felix would have considered momento-grabbing tourists as respectable.  

Generally speaking, marauding tourists taking more than just selfies hardly take the time to comprehend what it is they are walking away with, perhaps wondering as many do, why the Italian authorities can't seem to find a way to secure a site so beautiful, yet so vulnerable to vandalism. 

One thing is for certain, when visiting sites like these, it is already difficult enough to imagine them in their former glory.  One already has to use one's imagination to understand how spacious and luxurious the place must have been, even by Pompeian standards, when so much has had to be carted off, in part for safekeeping and preservation in part for spoils. 


The thieves probably weren't aware that at one time the villa was dramatically adorned with wall paintings, two of which are now on permanent exhibition in the Louvre Museum in Paris.  The statuette for which the house is nicknamed, is also long missing from the site.  It's on display in the Gabinetto Segreto (Secret Cabinet) of Italy's National Archaeological Museum in Naples. The gallery houses overly-naughty objects from Pompeii and Herculaneum once considered too erotic in nature for the general museum population. 


Spotted by a tour guide, who grabbed the 8 cm by 8 cm stolen fresco fragment from the culprits and notified the authorities, the two tourists have been charged with attempted grand larceny. 

Italian Newspaper Il Mattino reports that when confronted the tourist tried to tell the authorities 


This is not the first theft at Pompeii, nor is it likely to be the last. 

3 million tourists set foot in Pompeii every year.  Visitors need to remember that they have no right to desecrate ruins for their short term gain. If everyone takes away "a momento", even if found on the ground, in one hundred year's time there will not be a Pompeii - just a pile of rubble.





October 12, 2016

Art Theft Alert - Historic Residence - Biel House

Postcard circa 1900 of Biel House
Address: Stenton, Dunbar, Lothian, Scotland, EH42 1SY
Attraction Type: Historic House 
Location: 4 miles west of Dunbar, off the B6370 

Police in East Lothian are appealing for information after items from a rare collection of Ancient Egyptian artefacts, historical swords, daggers, spears and arrows were stolen from Biel House, a mansion in East Lothian at some point between 4 pm on Tuesday, October 4th and 9 am on Wednesday, October 5th, 2016. Biel House, is a privately-owned - castellated three-storey residence which dates originally from the 16th century.  It is a member of the Historic Houses Association, but only open by appointment to visitors.

The residence is reported to be the birthplace of William Dunbar, the great Scottish poet. Owned by the Earls of Dunbar until 1489, when the King transferred it from Hugo Dunbar of Biel to Robert Lauder of Edrington, the original house was a 12th century tower house. The present house was built in the 16th century. 

Officers are asking anyone in the area at the time or who may have been offered any objects matching the above description to please contact officers on 101 or alternatively contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.