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Art Thief Steals Painting During Museum Hours, Vanishes

By: Caroline Roth

January 28, 2019

Though it was thwarted within 24 hours, a bold and brash art heist took place Sunday evening before the very eyes of museum goers.

The painting, “Ai-Petri. Crimea,” a 1908 mountain landscape by Arkhip Kuindzhi, is part of a popular exhibition in Moscow’s New Tretyakov Gallery. The thief was clad in a dark shirt and jeans and was mistaken by museum goers as an employee. With just one hand, he seized the frame and walked out of the gallery, all while watched by patrons. By the time the theft was discovered and reported, the man had vanished into the streets.


“Ai-Petri. Crimea.” The painting was not damaged, and will be returned to exhibition shortly

Only 12 hours later, authorities tracked the man to his apartment, managing to learn where the Kuindzhi was hidden. It was recovered from a construction site and will be returned shortly to the exhibition. According to police, the motive behind taking the painting may have been to sell it.

Continue reading for 9 other famous art thefts from the past 30 years

1. On May 20, 2010, Pablo Picasso’s 1911 painting “Le Pigeon Aux Petits Pois” was stolen from the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris in Paris, France. Along with the five other paintings stolen, the heist was worth an estimated total of $123 million.


“Le Pigeon Aux Petits Pois” by Pablo Picasso

2. The 1633 “The Storm on the Sea of Galilee” by Rembrandt van Rijn was stolen on March 18, 1990. The artwork was on display in Boston, Massachusetts at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum and worth $500,000,000. It is believed Rembrandt painted himself into this depiction of the biblical scene, as it includes Jesus, his twelve disciples, and one other person in the boat.


Rembrandt van Rijn’s “The Storm on the Sea of Galilee”

3. Durham University’s Oriental Museum fell victim to an art theft April 4, 2012. Two artifacts, including a jade bowl, were taken from the Durham, London establishment after thieves chiselled through a wall. The artifacts were estimated to be worth a combined value of $3.2 million.


Jade bowl from the Oriental Museum

4. "Poppy Flowers,” the 1887 painting by Vincent van Gogh, was stolen on August 21, 2010 from the Mohamed Mahmoud Khalil Museum in Cairo, Egypt. The same painting had been stolen previously in 1977 but recovered a decade later. During the 2010 heist, only 7 out of 43 of the museum’s security cameras and none of the alarms were working at the time of the crime.


“Poppy Flowers” by Vincent van Gogh

5. The Kunsthal in Rotterdam, Netherlands was targeted on October 16, 2012 for several works that were on display, most notably “Waterloo Bridge, London” by Impressionist painter Claude Monet. The alarms in the museum were triggered, but by the time police arrived on the scene, the perpetrators had fled.


“Waterloo Bridge, London” by Claude Monet

6. The most valuable piece in the collection at Foundation E.G. Bührle in Zürich, Switzerland was stolen on February 10, 2008, in addition to three other pieces. With an estimated value of $91,000,000 “The Boy in the Red Vest” by Paul Cézanne depicts a boy in traditional Italian attire.


“The Boy in the Red Vest” by Paul Cézanne

7. “Sport (Man in Fishing Boat)” by Norman Rockwell went missing on September 13, 2013 from the Welpak Art Moving and Storage in Queens, N.Y. The 1939 painting, used as a Saturday Evening Post cover, sold at auction the previous May for $1,085,000..


“Sport (Man in Fishing Boat)” by Norman Rockwell

8. Edvard Munch’s famous painting “The Scream (Der Schei der Natur)” has been stolen not once, but twice, the most recent theft occurring on August 22, 2004. The Munch Museum in Oslo, Norway was entered by masked gunmen who walked out with this and one other painting. They were photographed as they escaped by car with the pieces.


“The Scream (Der Schei der Natur)” by Edvard Munch

9. June 10, 2007 brought the disappearance of “A Cavalier” by Frans Van Mieris, during the hours the gallery was open to the public. Housed at the Art Gallery of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia, the self-portrait’s estimated value is over $1 million.


“A Cavalier” by Frans van Mieris