RVI247370 The return of the Mona Lisa to the Louvre, January 1914 (b/w photo) by French Photographer, (20th century); Private Collection; (add.info.: returned on 31st December 1913; stolen by Vincenzo Peruggia, an Italian painter and Louvre employee on 21st August 1911; picture sat in Peruggia's flat for 2 years;); Roger-Viollet, Paris; FRENCH, ITALIAN, SPANISH & JAPANESE RIGHTS NOT AVAILABLE;  out of copyright

Stolen! The Biggest Art Heists Of All Time (Part 2)

This is the second part of our Stolen! The biggest art heists of all time (Part 1) In this incredible journey back through some of the most outrageous art crimes in history we look at Picasso’s Portrait of Suzanne BlochVan Gogh’s Blossoming Chesnut Branches, Edvard Munch’s The Madonna and last but not least Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa from the Louvre.

Sao Paulo Museum of Art, Brazil (2007)

How long does it take to steal artworks worth £35million? Three minutes, it would appear.

In 2001, three thieves raided the Sao Paulo Museum of Art and stole Picasso’s Portrait of Suzanne Bloch and Candido Portinari’s O lavrador de cafe. After arresting two of the three culprits, the police recovered the paintings.

They were subsequently brought back to the museum under the escort of 100 police officers.

Portrait of Suzanne Bloch (oil on canvas), Picasso, Pablo (1881-1973) / Museu de Arte, Sao Paulo, Brazil
Portrait of Suzanne Bloch (oil on canvas), Picasso, Pablo (1881-1973) / Museu de Arte, Sao Paulo, Brazil

Emil Buehrle Foundation, Zurich, Switzerland (2008)

On February 18 2008, three men wearing ski masks and armed with one pistol, stole four masterpieces in broad daylight from the Emil Buehrle Foundation, Zurich.

Worth a total of £102million, these paintings included Monet’s Poppies near Vetheuil, Van Gogh’s Blossoming Chesnut Branches, Edgar Degas’ Ludovic Lepic and his Daughters and Cezanne’s Boy in the Red Vest. While the former two were found shortly after the theft in an unlocked parked car, the latter two remain to be recovered.

Blossoming Chestnut Branches, 1890 (oil on canvas), Gogh, Vincent van (1853-90) / Buhrle Collection, Zurich, Switzerland
Blossoming Chestnut Branches, 1890 (oil on canvas), Gogh, Vincent van (1853-90) / Buhrle Collection, Zurich, Switzerland

The Munch Museum, Oslo, Norway (2004)

Ten years after the Olympics theft of Edvard Munch’s The Scream, two men entered The Munch Museum, threatened staff at gunpoint and pilfered another version of Munch’s The Scream and The Madonna from the walls.

Madonna, 1894-5 (oil on canvas), Munch, Edvard (1863-1944) / National Museum, Oslo, Norway / Photo © O. Vaering
Madonna, 1894-5 (oil on canvas), Munch, Edvard (1863-1944) / National Museum, Oslo, Norway / Photo © O. Vaering

They escaped with the help of at least one other accomplice.

Fortunately, the cultural treasures never left Norway and were found in better condition than feared several years later. They returned to display in September of 2006.

 

And….last but not least, The Louvre (1911)

As audacious art heists go, the theft of Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa from The Louvre in 1911 ranks one of the highest.

Mona Lisa, c.1503-6 (oil on panel), Vinci, Leonardo da (1452-1519) / Louvre, Paris, France
Mona Lisa, c.1503-6 (oil on panel), Vinci, Leonardo da (1452-1519) / Louvre, Paris, France

The work was stolen after a lone Italian employee of the museum, Vincenzo Peruggia, simply slipped it under his smock and walked out of the door. Peruggia believed the work should be reclaimed by his country, as the French national collection boasted too many Italian works.

Peruggia kept it in his apartment for two years, until he was caught while trying to sell it to the Uffizi Gallery in Florence. He was jailed for just a few months and was hailed as a hero by the Italian public.

The work finally made its way back to The Louvre in 1913.

One Comment

  1. Pingback: Stolen! The Biggest Art Heists Of All Time (Part 1) – bridgeman blog

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