Sunday, March 8, 2009

Thieves Nabbed Trying to Sell Masterpieces

When Mom helps out on the conspiracy, the thieving and then cutting a deal with the insurers of the priceless art, it is clear that the genetic material is not made of strong moral fiber or intelligence genes. Twenty two years after Renoir, Pissarro, as well as notable 17th and 19th century painters, a German man domiciled in Dubai, his dear old mum and another rather elderly gent from Walem approached the insurance company to fence the stolen goods and collect millions of euros.  The insurance company had already paid 2.9 million US after the theft and these folks obviously did not have a television, newspaper or the world wide web to see that the world economy is collapsing and insurance companies are feeling downright penny pinched. 

The detective, Ben Zuidema, said that he was contacted out of the blue by a man wanting to sell the paintings back to the insurers for €5million (£4.5 million). Included in the offer was €1 million for Mr Zuidema to facilitate the deal.

“Immediately I passed information to the investigators,” said the private detective. “Since then I have co-operated with them to find the paintings.” A sting was arranged with the police for the canvases to be handed over for €1 million, according to reports in the Dutch media.
The Dutch National Prosecutor’s Office said that this led to the recovery of the paintings by David Teniers, Willem van de Velde, Jan Brueghel the Younger, Eva Gonzalès, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Camille Pissarro and Paul-Desiré Trouillebert.(Ruben Schipper photo)
Add to that the thieves were brutes and badly damaged some of the paintings by folding the revered collection of Europen artists in half, as if they were the best of a kid's schools competition for glorious refrigerator art.  But the coupe de grâce, is the 60 year old gallery owner who died a couple of years ago under suspicion from the Dutch police after buying and fully insuring right before the spectacular heist.  Turns out Mr. Noortman has a room named after him in London's National Gallery that is dedicated to the Dutch masters.  Paging Hollywood....

(Photo courtesy Ruben Shipper/EPA of Jan Brueghel's painting)
The original theft took place in Maastricht, a Dutch city, near the German and Belgian borders, known for its well preserved historical sites and disputes as to whether it is Netherlands oldest
city while in today's cultural climate is quite filled with European urban chic.  In the time since the 22 pieces art disappered into thieving hands from the Noortman gallery in 1987, The Maastrict Treaty was negotiated and signed on 9 February, 1992 formalizing the European Union and the monetray unit of echange the euro, not art.  In an interesting aside, the selling of cannabis and other drugs in cofee shops and the like prompt tourism and controversy too as the mayor tries to congregate the shops and the customers all in one spot.  Its only right that the Dutch police multi-task on different front.  Today, recovering stolen art and nabbing the thieves and tomorrow....

'The suspects were apparently trying to sell the artworks to the insurance company that had paid out 2.27 million euros (S$4.43 million) after they went missing,' the statement said.

The modern-day value of the paintings had yet to be determined.
The paintings did not all reside together during their captivity nor were they treated as priceless cultural artifacts.  Six were found in a quaint southern town, Valkenburg and two more in cough, Walem, where the oldest member of the trio resides.  It is stongly hinted that a ninth painting was somehow destroyed by the gallery owner who is unable to defend himself.  Pierre-August Renoir, Camille Pissarro and Paul Desire Trouillebert now await the fate of their work in the hands of art historians, curators and the rooms of restoration.

One restoration that shall live in infamy was a painting that was found in an Italian village full of spiders, dust and knick knacks.  It was a famed Italian Baroque painting by Caravaggio, a murdiring evil genius art fiend who was a poet with a paintbrush.  Jonathon Harr writes the story of the lost masterpiece and then once the provenance was secured all manner of burecratic bungling ensued in its restoration.  The Lost Painting is a great read for just about $10USD.

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