May 20, 2010

Masterpieces stolen from Paris museum valued at over $600M

A closed circuit TV camera at the Paris Museum of Modern Art captured a lone thief stealing paintings by Picasso, Matisse, Braque, Modigliani and Léger valued at $613million (€500m or £430m).

The hooded thief was seen on camera cutting open a window, breaking locks and entering the museum, according to the Paris prosecutor's office.

Two of the stolen paintings are shown above. Still Life with Chandeliers by Fernand Léger is on left and Woman with a Fan by Amedeo Modigliani on the right.

The stolen paintings include:

A 1912 oil painting "Le pigeon aux petits-pois" (The Pigeon with the Peas) by Spanish artist Pablo Picasso

“La Pastorale” (Pastoral, 1906) by Henri Matisse

“L’Olivier près de l’Estaque” (Olive tree near Estaque, 1906) by Georges Braque"

“Amédéo Modigliani’s La femme a l’éventai” (Woman with a Fan) by Amedeo Modigliani

“Nature Morte au Chandelier” (Still Life with Chandeliers, 1922) by Fernand Léger.

The Paris Museum of Modern Art is the home to more than 8,000 20th century works of art.


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Biggest art thefts in history:

May 2010: A lone thief stole five paintings possibly worth hundreds of millions of euros, including works by Picasso and Matisse, in a brazen overnight heist at a Paris modern art museum.

February 2008: Armed robbers stole four paintings by Cezanne, Degas, van Gogh and Monet worth $163.2 million from the E.G. Buehrle Collection, a private museum in Zurich, Switzerland. The van Gogh and Monet paintings were recovered.

December 2007: A painting by Pablo Picasso valued at about $50 million, along with one by Brazilian artist Candido Portinari valued at $5 million to $6 million, were stolen from the Sao Paulo Museum of Art in Brazil, by three burglars using a crowbar and a car jack. The paintings were later found.

February 2007: Two Picasso paintings, worth nearly $66 million, and a drawing were stolen from the Paris, France home of the artist's granddaughter in an overnight robbery. Police later recovered the art when the thieves tried to sell it.

February 2006: Around 300 museum-grade artifacts worth an estimated $142 million, including paintings, clocks and silver, were stolen from a 17th-century manor house at Ramsbury in southern England, the largest property theft in British history, according to reports.

February 2006: Four works of art and other objects, including paintings by Matisse, Picasso, Monet and Salvador Dali, were stolen from the Museu Chacara do Ceu, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, by four armed men during a Carnival parade. Local media estimated the paintings' worth at around $50 million.

August 2004: Two paintings by Edvard Munch, The Scream and Madonna, insured for $141 million, were stolen from the Munch Museum in Oslo, Norway by three men in a daylight raid. The paintings were recovered nearly two years later.

August 2003: A $65 million Leonardo da Vinci painting was stolen from Drumlanrig Castle in southern Scotland after two men joined a public tour and overpowered a guide. It was recovered four years later.

May 2003: A 16th-century gold-plated Saliera, or salt cellar, by Florentine master Benvenuto Cellini, valued at $69.3 million, was stolen from Vienna's Art History Museum by a single thief when guards discounted a burglar alarm. The figurine was later recovered.

December 2002: Two thieves broke in through the roof of the Vincent Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam and stole two paintings by Van Gogh valued at $30 million. Dutch police convicted two men in December 2003, but did not recover the paintings.

December 2000: Hooded thieves stole a self-portrait by Rembrandt and two Renoir paintings worth an estimated $36 million from Stockholm's waterfront National Museum, using a motorboat in their escape. All paintings were recovered.

October 1994: Seven Picasso paintings worth an estimated $44 million were stolen from a gallery in Zurich, Switzerland. They were recovered in 2000.

April 1991: Two masked armed men took 20 paintings - worth at least $10 million each at the time - from Amsterdam's Van Gogh Museum. The paintings were found in the getaway car less than an hour later.

March 1990: In the biggest art theft in U.S. history, $300 million in art, including works by Vermeer, Rembrandt and Manet, was stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, Massachusetts, by two men in police uniforms.

December 1988: Thieves stole three paintings by van Gogh, with an estimated value of $72 million to $90 million, from the Kroeller-Mueller Museum in a remote section of the Netherlands. Police later recovered all three paintings.

May 1986: A Vermeer painting, Lady Writing a Letter with her Maid, is among 18 paintings worth $40 million stolen from Russborough House in Blessington, Ireland. Some of the paintings are later recovered.

August 1911: Perhaps the most famous case of art theft occurred when the Leonardo Da Vinci's Mona Lisa was stolen from the Louvre by employee Vinczo Peruggia, who was caught two years later.