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The Church of San Lorenzo in Palermo, Sicily

Wartime Looting

Art Theft

Fraud and Forgery

Exhibition Entrance and Introduction

Illicit Antiquities

Click on the area name to see works included. Due to the nature and theme of this exhibition focusing on works of art that have been involved in art crimes, several of the pieces discussed are not able to be physically on display but rather their virtual images are shown with their story. Those pieces recovered are on loan from various museums or private collectors. The exhibit is arranged first by type of art crime and then by the works associated with each type of crime. Bibliography of references is available at end of exhibit or by clicking here. Lea


“Art defines our societies, outlines our aspirations, shows us ways of seeing the world that science never could.� -- Simon Houpt, "Museum of the Missing"



On February 10, 2008, four “masterpieces” valued at more than $163 million US were stolen from a Swiss Museum including paintings by Degas, Cezanne, Monet, and Van Gogh. The works by Monet and Van Gogh were recovered in an unlocked vehicle in hospital parking on February 18, 2008, however, the other two paintings are still missing. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, “art and cultural property crime - which includes theft, fraud, looting, and trafficking across state and international lines - is a looming criminal enterprise with estimated losses running as high as $6 billion annually”1. In addition, ARCA (Association for Research into Crimes against Art) reports that “art crime represents the third highest grossing criminal enterprise worldwide, behind only drugs and arms trafficking” 2. John Conklin, defines art crime as “criminally punishable acts that involve works of art” 3 and also explains how the “high prices that art now commands encourages a variety of art crimes.” Art crimes involve not only theft, but also looting, illicit trafficking of antiquities, vandalism (both deliberate and through carelessness), fraud , and fakes/forgeries. 1

U.S. Federal Government and Department of Justice. “Federal Bureau of Investigation-Art Theft Program,” n.d., <>, (February 2008). 2 ARCA (Association for Research into Crimes against Art). “Art Crime Facts”, Feb 2008. 3

John E. Conklin. Art Crime. Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers, 1994, 3.



Even though security and governmental measures have tightened in more recent years, art crime still occurs more often than most people think. Government agencies have put additional focus on the area of art crime including the FBI which launched its “Art Crime Team” in 2004 which includes 13 special agents and three Department of Justice attorneys. To date, the team has recovered 850 cultural objects valued at more than $134 million. The Italian government formed its own special unit of the Carabinieri (Italy’s national police) for the “Protection of the Cultural Heritage” or their special art squad. They primarily work to identify stolen artifacts from Italy included those smuggled out of the country.

Art crime can also take on different meanings, one of which includes the ethics surrounding who owns cultural property . Disputes surrounding whether or not the “Elgin Marbles” should return to Greece from England between the British and the Greek governments have yet to reach resolution. The sculptures were acquired from Lord Elgin by the British Museum in 1816 and have since been on display to the public. It is also known that many of the Louvre’s early holdings came primarily through confiscations- many contributions were made by Napoleon’s plunder during his military campaigns.



This exhibition strives to increase awareness by exposing art works that have been involved in art crimes by describing the circumstances of how the crime occurred, whether or not the work has been recovered (to date), as well as some background and historical information about the work of art itself.

The central types of art crime that this exhibit focuses on include:

art theft wartime looting fraud & forgery illicit antiquities



"Only art that is valuable is worth stealing, smuggling, and forging." --John E. Conklin in Art Crime.

Works Exhibited: 1) Leonardo da Vinci, Madonna of the Yarnwinder, c.1501 2) Caravaggio, "Nativity with San Lorenzo and San Francescoâ&#x20AC;?, 1608 3) Rembrandt, Storm on the Sea of Galilee, 1633 4) Johannes Vermeer, The Concert; c.1664-1667 5) August Strindberg , Night of Jealousy,1893



Madonna of the Yardwinder Recovered! On August 27, 2003, two men disguised as tourists taking a public tour of Drumlanrig Castle in Scotland, stole Leonardo Da Vinci’s, Madonna of the Yarnwinder. The painting hung in the staircase hall of the castle, home of the Duke of Buccleuch, an area open to the public. This work was the number one item in the December 2003 edition of INTERPOL’s 'Most Wanted Works of Art' poster, the year it was stolen 4 and was listed on the FBI’s “Top Ten Art Crimes List”. The painting was recovered at a lawyer's office in Glasgow in October 2007 after police officers, from four anti-crime agencies, raided a meeting of five people. Considered to be one of Da Vinci’s masterpieces painted during the High Renaissance , baby Jesus is shown holding a cross-like yarn winder stick which maybe symbolic of Christ’s eventual crucifixion.


Interpol. “Stolen Works of Art”,




Mafia Masterpiece? This painting by Caravaggio was on display at the Oratorio de San Lorenzo in Palermo, Sicily. Two thieves removed the painting from its frame with a razor blade on the night of October 19, 1969. This piece has never been recovered to date and there is much speculation surrounding this piece’s disappearance including possible ties to the Italian Mafia. The piece was brought up in a court proceeding in 1996 by a member of the mafia suggesting that the painting may have been destroyed, however, no evidence of this exists. This work is included as one of the FBI’s “Top Ten Art Crimes.”

Caravaggio’s (1571-1610) works were best known for his dramatic contrast of light and dark (chiaroscuro) and intense realism, characteristic of the Italian Baroque period. Many of his commissions were for religious based art during the time of the CounterReformation. This piece was created during in is later (turbulent) life after fleeing Rome for Sicily before his death in 1610.



The biggest art theft in U.S. History occurred at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston in the middle of the night on March 18, 1990, just after much of the city was celebrating St. Patrick’s Day. The thieves, two men dressed as security guards , stole approximately $300 million worth of art works including the those shown by Rembrandt and Vermeer, as well as others by Rembrandt, Manet, Degas and Govaert Flinck. None of the works stolen have been recovered to date. This theft is included as one of the FBI’s “Top Ten Art Crimes” and they have issued a $5 million reward for return of all of the missing pieces. The following except from the Boston Globe, shows the “Anatomy of the Heist.”

See art works on next page… Lea



The Storm on the Sea of Galilee is said to possibly be the last of Rembrandt’s seascapes if found. Rembrandt (1606-1669), a Dutch Baroque artist, was very well known for his etching as well as his religious paintings. Many of his paintings exhibit an almost “supernatural illumination “ in an otherwise dark scene.. This painting depicts the miracle of Jesus calming the waves on the Sea of Galilee (now modern Israel), in the 4th gospel of Mark in the New Testament.

Johannes Vermeer (1632-1675) was a Dutch Baroque painter in the city of Delft where he spent his life. Many of his works are characterized by serene interior domestic scenes that are well balanced with clear illuminated light on all objects portrayed. There are also underlying religious elements present in some of his works. The relaxed demeanor of the scene seems to underplay the significance of the music being played which adds to the obscurity of meaning in this work.



Night of Jealousy Recovered! August Strindberg’s painting, Night of Jealousy (Svartsjukans natt), was stolen February 15, 2006 from the Strindberg Museum in Stockholm, Sweden in a daylight heist where three thieves removed it from the wall while distracting museum staff. This painting was recently recovered by police during a drug raid of a home in a Stockholm suburb on Thursday, March 6, 2008 as was reported by the Associated Press.

August Strindberg(1849-1912) was one of Sweden’s best known writers and playwrights , known for his plays Miss Julie and The Red Room. He completed this painting in 1893 in Berlin as a gift for his wife. This dramatic portrayal of a dark stormy seascape relays expression of mental anguish as well as the “fury of nature.”



Works Exhibited: 1) Raphael , Portrait of a Young Man, 1514 2) Franรงois Boucher, Les Amoureux Jeunes, n.d. 3) Unknown, The Lion of Nimrud, c. 720 BCE



“Poster Child” for WWII Missing Art In an interview with Bernard Taper, a Monuments Man, who spent much time looking for the missing Raphael painting, “It’s the most valuable thing that’s still missing.” 5 Bernard Taper was an art intelligence officer with the Monuments Fine Arts and Archives section of the US Military (known as Monuments Men).

Raphael (1483-1520), was a one of the great artists during the High Renaissance in Italy. Known to be good looking and social, different from many of this contemporaries such as Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo. Raphael was known for his “Madonna” paintings, but his frescoes of the Stanza della Segnatura in the Vatican– including The School of Athens- was perhaps Raphael's greatest work.

Three paintings the Nazis wanted to acquire from the Czartoriski Museum included this Raphael, Leonardo Da Vinci’s Lady with an Ermine (pictured with troops on previous page), and Rembrandt’s Landscape with Good Samaritan. This piece was last seen with Hans Frank, the Nazi’s Polish governor, who took the piece from the Krakow museum. After fleeing when the Russians advanced on Krakow during WWII, Frank was later captured but there was no trace of the Raphael piece. The other two works connected with Frank were located including the Da Vinci and the Rembrandt. This Raphael piece has become to be known as the “poster child” for WWII missing works. 5 5

Jesse Hamlin. “His Mission- to save art looted by the Nazis. Here’s how he did it,” home of the San Francisco Chronicle on the Web, May 4, 2007, <>, (March 2008).



Returned Home This painting was stolen in 1940 from a French art dealer by the Nazis during World War II. This piece was later discovered to be a looted work of art by a researcher at the National Gallery of Art in Washington while working on a book about the art collection of Hermann Gรถring, a senior Nazi official. This work, which had been donated to the Utah Museum of Fine Arts, was then returned to its owners in 2004.

Franรงois Boucher (1703-1770) , painter, designer, and engraver, is noted for his mythological scenes and lush landscapes typical of the elegant and refined French Rococo style. His work was characterized by the use of delicate colors, gently modeled forms, and frivolous subject matter.




The “Thieves of Baghdad” After the fall of Saddam Hussein and the American invasion of Iraq in 2003, many priceless artifacts were looted from the Iraq National Museum in Baghdad. The Iraqi museum is said to hold the world's greatest collection of Mesopotamian art. The looters were not only foreign civilians and soldiers, but also the Iraqi citizens themselves. Some of these historical artifacts have been recovered, but many have not including this piece which has been called “an icon of Phoenician art.” The Lion of Nimrud, also known as the Lioness attacking a Nubian, shows a lioness killing a Nubian in a meadow of lotus and papyrus. It is made of chryselephantine (wood overlaid with ivory and gold) with lapis and carnelian. Nimrud was an ancient Assyrian city located south of Nineveh on the river Tigris in northern Mesopotamia.



"Art fraud includes the production and sale of counterfeit art, mostly seen through dealers, collectors , auction houses, and museums." -- John Conklin in Art Crime

Works Exhibited: 1) Paul Gauguin, Vase de Fleurs (Lilas), 1885 2) Han van Meegeren, The Supper at Emmaus, 1937




In the case of Paul Gauguin’s “Vase de fleurs(Lilas)”, art forgery and fraud were combined to deceive many art collectors and experts. Ely Sakhai, a New York art gallery owner, devised a scheme where he purchased original art works to obtain the original certification papers and then had a copy made similar to the original piece. He then sold the forged piece using the original’s provenance. After several re-sales of the forged copy, both paintings of Vase de Fleurs (the forgery and the original) showed up for auction in May 2000 at Sotheby’s and at Christie’s where the piece at Christie’s was declared a fake. Eli Sakhai was later charged with eight counts of fraud relating to the alleged sale of 25 forged works by artists that included Gauguin, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Marc Chagall, Claude Monet and Paul Klee. James Wynne, one of the FBI’s special agents who investigates art crime, explains that prosecuting art forgeries is difficult because “it's not illegal for someone to create a painting and sign Chagall on it. The violation comes in the sale – the misrepresentation of the painting as an original.“5


Bradley Hope - Staff Reporter of the Sun. “Art Forgeries Are on the Rise, Testing Dealers, Detectives”, The New York Sun online, 25 August 2006, <>, (March 2008).

Paul Gauguin (1848-1903), a French post-impressionist painter, was contemporary with other artists such as Van Gogh and Cezanne. This “middle market” piece (meaning it sells for only a couple hundred thousand dollars) is not known as one of Gauguin’s better works. Gauguin’s earlier works, similar to this piece, were exhibited in Impressionist exhibits (1880-1886) even though his later works were more abstract and characterized by multidirectional dashes of pigment to help portray more emotion and symbolic content of his subjects. Lea


Fraud! Possibly the most famous art forgery, The Supper at Emmaus was painted by Han van Meegerenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s in 1937, was assumed to be a genuine painting by the Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer of Delft . The Museum Boijmans had even paid 520,000 guilders (equivalent to 2.5 million dollars in 2005) This painting was discovered a fraud shortly the end of World War II when officers from the Allied Art Commission, who were responsible for repatriating works of art looted by the Nazis, had discovered an unknown canvas by the great Johannes Vermeer, among the collection Hermann GĂśring and wished to return it to its original owner. This was one of 6 original paintings by Meegeren passed off as Vermeers. His paintings were so good that he practically had to prove his guilt by painting in prison.



"It all began with a robbery, deep in the south of Italy….” --Peter Watson in The Medici Conspiracy

Works Exhibited: 1) Euphronios Krater, Calyx-krater, ca. 515 B.C. 2) Two Griffins Attacking a Fallen Doe, c. 325-300 B.C.



“The Medici Conspiracy” The Story

The “Euphronios krater,” as it has now come to be known, was acquired by The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York (”The Met”) in 1972 for a price of $1 million, unheard of for an antiquity at this time. Right away controversy and suspicion arose as to how the krater was actually obtained due to the ambiguity of the provenance (source of ownership history) of the piece. There was also Robert E. Hecht, Jr., an American dealer in antiquities, with whom they had worked with to acquire the piece, and who had been implicated in an antiquities-smuggling scandal in Italy in the 1960s, but was acquitted.

Euphronios Krater being returned by the Metropolitan Museum of Art

In this case, it took a little over 20 years when the pieces of puzzle began to come together to develop the real story of how the krater (and other pieces) were illegally excavated from a tomb in Cerveteri, near Rome. Ultimately, the American antiquities dealer, Robert Hecht was indicted by the Italian government for trafficking in stolen antiquities. Hecht’s former antiquities partner, Giacomo Medici was also convicted in 2004 of smuggling artifacts out of Italy.

On February 2, 2006, The Met announced that it would return the “prized” Euphronios Krater, back to Italy from where it was removed. More on next page… Lea


“The Medici Conspiracy” The Art Euphronios (c.520-500 B.C.), the equivalent of a “Michelangelo” or “Raphael” of his time, was one of only a few known Greek vase painters who signed their works during this time period. This vase, called a “krater”, meaning “mixing bowl,” was used to mix the heavy wine the Greeks produced with water for drinking. This krater was painted using the “red-figure” style where figures were left the color of the clay and the details were drawn in with black or dark glaze. This technique made the appearance of the figures more dramatic and naturalistic. The painted scene depicts Sarpedon, the son of Zeus, lying naked, bleeding and dying while being lifted up by the twin gods of sleep and death, while the other figures appear to be preparing for battle.



The “Getty Griffins” In a story similar to the Euphronios krater, Two Griffins Attacking a Fallen Doe was also involved in a conspiracy involving the former curator of the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles- Marion Truejointly on trial with Robert Hecht, a dealer who frequently sold artifacts to American museums, including the Euphronios krater. Prosecutors at the trial presented photographs seized in a raid of Giacomo Medici’s Swiss warehouse in 1995, showing the sculpture in the trunk of a car. 6 Italian authorities suspect the sculpture, which was a signature piece of the Getty's collection, was looted from the countryside near the southeastern Italian town of Foggia. 7

“Griffins” are legendary creatures with the body of a lion, the head and wings of an eagle, and back covered with feathers. In Greek mythology, griffins lived far to the north of the civilized world and guarded large deposits of gold. This sculpture depicts two griffins devouring a fallen deer, symbolizing the victory of the civilized world over barbarians. Carved from a single block of marble, the artifact still retains some paint on its surface. 7

On August 1, 2007, The Italian Ministry of Culture and the J. Paul Getty Trust issued a joint statement that 40 objects in their collection were to be transferred to Italy including this piece. 6

Elizabetta Provoledo. “Photographs of Getty Griffins Shown at Antiquities Trial in Rome,“ New York Times on the Web, 1 June 2006, <>, (March 2008). 7

Eti Bonn-Muller and Eric A. Powell , “A Tangled Journey Home,” Archaeological Institute of America (online), Volume 60 Number 5, September/October 2007 ,





ARCA (Association for Research into Crimes against Art). “Art Crime Facts”, Feb 2008.  Art Theft / Most Wanted Art / Recovery Project: Search for the World’s Most Wanted Art. Saz Productions, Inc. 2008, <>, March 2008.  Bennett, Will. “Two versions of Gauguin work on sale at same time”,, 3 December 2004, <>, (March 2008).  Conklin, John E. Art Crime. Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers, 1994.  “Chasing Down History and the 'Thieves of Baghdad',”, 9 December 2005, <>, (March 2008).  Davies, Serena. “The Forger who fooled the World”, Telegraph, 05 Aug 2006  Edsel, Robert M. “Rescuing Da Vinci,” (online) Laurel Publishing, LLC, 2006, <>, (March 2008).  Encyclopedia Britannica. "Boucher, François," Encyclopedia Britannica Online, 2008., 23 Mar. 2008.  Essential  Eti Bonn-Muller and Eric A. Powell , “A Tangled Journey Home,” Archaeological Institute of America (online), Volume 60 Number 5, September/October 2007 ,  Gagon, Dave . Deseret Morning News. “Utah art found to be Nazi loot,” Deseret News (Salt Lake City),, 26 February 2004, <>, 16 Mar 2008.  “Greatest heists in art history,” BBC News Online (, 23 August 2004, <>, (March 2008)  Gibbon, Kate Fitz (Editor). Who Owns the Past? Cultural Policy, Cultural Property, and the Law. American Council for Cultural Policy, 2005.  Hamlin, Jesse. “His Mission- to save art looted by the Nazis. Here’s how he did it,” home of the San Francisco Chronicle on the Web, May 4, 2007, <>, (March 2008).  Hope, Bradley - Staff Reporter of the Sun. “Art Forgeries Are on the Rise, Testing Dealers, Detectives”, The New York Sun online, 25 August 2006, <>, (March 2008). 



Houpt, Simon. Museum of the missing a history of art theft. (New York, NY: Sterling Pub. 2006). Interpol. “Stolen Works of Art”, Kurkjian, Stephen, Globe Staff. “Secrets behind the largest art theft in history,” Boston Globe (online), 13 March 2005, <, (March 2008).  Lister, David. “Two solicitors in court over stolen da Vinci,” Times Online, UK Edition (, 5 October 2007, <>, (March 2008).  Povoledo, Elizabetta. “Ancient Vase Comes Home to a Hero’s Welcome”, New York Times on the Web, January 19, 2008, <>, (March 2008).  Povoledo, Elizabetta. “Photographs of Getty Griffins Shown at Antiquities Trial in Rome,“ New York Times on the Web, 1 June 2006, <>, (March 2008).  Steinhaus, Rochelle . “The Great Gardner Art Heist: The investigation continues,” CourtTVNews, 2007, <>, (March 2008).  The Associated Press. “Stolen painting worth $1.5 M found in raid: Police recover Strindberg’s ‘Jealousy’s Night’ in Stockholm suburb,”, 7 March 2008, <>, (March 2008)  The Getty. “ Italian Ministry of Culture and J. Paul Getty Trust Reach Agreement,” Current Press Releases, 1 August 2007, <>, March 2008.  The Rape of Europa. Documentary Film. Written and directed by Richard Berge, Bonni Cohen, Nicole Newnham. Based on the book by Lynn Nicholas. 2007. Agon Arts & Entertainment and Oregon Public Broadcasting, 2007.  The U.S. National Archives and Records Adminisration. “Holocaust Era Assets,”, n.d., <>, (March 2008).  U.S. Federal Government and Department of Justice. “Federal Bureau of Investigation-Art Theft Program”,n.d., <>, (February 2008).  Watson, Peter, and Cecilia Todeschini. The Medici conspiracy the illicit journey of looted antiquities, from Italy's tomb raiders to the world's greatest museums. (New York: BBS PublicAffairs, 2006)   



Lost & Found: The Quest for the World's Masterpieces  
Lost & Found: The Quest for the World's Masterpieces  

Art History presentation focusing on Art Crime (April 2008)