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 in the billions of dollars annually.
Jan van Eyck: The Just Judges.
Early to mid-1800s: Burkel paints After the Hunt (c. 1830), Amalfi Cave (c. 1845), and The Horse Round-up (c.1861-1863).
In October 1969, two thieves entered the Oratory of San Lorenzo in Palermo, Italy and removed the Caravaggio Nativity from its frame. Experts estimate its value at $20 million.
Vincent van Gogh: View of the Sea at Scheveningen(1882).
1925: All three Burkel paintings are acquired and subsequently exhibited by the Pirmasens Museum in Germany.
On December 31, 1999, during the fireworks that accompanied the celebration of the millennium, a thief broke into the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, England and stole Cezanne’s landscape painting View of Auvers-sur-Oise. Valued at £3 million, the painting has been described as an important work illustrating the transition from early to mature Cezanne painting.
Johannes Vermeer: The Concert (c.1658–1660).
On September 8, 2011, Madeleine Leaning on Her Elbow with Flowers in Her Hair by Pierre Auguste Renoir was stolen during an armed robbery in a Houston home. The masked robber is described as a white male, 18 to 26 years old, who weighs about 160 pounds and is approximately 5’10” tall. He was armed with a large-caliber, semi-automatic handgun. A private insurer is offering up to $50,000 for information leading to the recovery of the painting.
Rembrandt: The Storm on the Sea of Galilee (1633).
May 13, 1942: To avoid Allied bombings, the Burkel paintings were taken to a local air-raid shelter outside of Pirmasens.
Approximately 100 paintings stolen from a Florida family’s art collection in a fine art storage facility. This collection included works by Picasso, Rothko, Matisse and others that were recovered from Chicago, New York and Tokyo.
Vincent van Gogh: Congregation Leaving the Reformed Church in Nuenen (1884).
Radu Dogaru’s mother, hoping to free her son from prosecution, told the police that on a freezing night in February, 2013, she placed seven stolen paintings — which included Monet’s 1901 Waterloo Bridge, London; Gauguin’s 1898 Girl in Front of Open Window” and Picasso’s 1971 Harlequin Head — in a wood-burning stove used to heat saunas and incinerated them.
September 19, 1945: The Pirmasens Museum reports that “about 50 paintings which had been stored in the air-raid shelter at Husterhoh School during the war have been lost during the arrival of the American troops on March 22, 1945.” The works were later smuggled to the U.S. by unknown individuals.
Jean-Baptiste Oudry: The White Duck (1753).
Mid-1960s: A New Jersey man purchases the Burkel paintings.
How Picassos, Matisses, Monets and other precious masterpieces may have met a fiery fate in a remote Romanian village, population 3,400, is something the police are still trying to understand.
Amadeo Modigliani: La Femme à l’éventail (Modigliani) (1919).
Late 1980s: The Burkel paintings are handed down to the New Jersey man’s daughter.
Caspar David Friedrich: Landschaft mit Regenbogen (c. 1810).
October 25, 2005: The William H. Bunch Auction and Appraisal Company in Pennsylvania advertises the sale of the Burkel paintings on the Internet and through the print media. Heike Wittmer, Pirmasens Museum Director and Archivist, spots the paintings for sale and alerts German authorities. U.S. Embassy officials contact the FBI, which halts the sale and takes custody of the paintings from the consignor, who voluntarily agrees to their return to Germany.
Rembrandt’s Self Portrait (1630): Recovered in a sting operation in Copenhagen carried out in cooperation with ICE and law enforcement agencies in Sweden and Denmark. The FBI had previously recovered Renoir’s The Young Parisian. Both paintings had been stolen from the Swedish National Museum in Stockholm in 2000.
February 10, 2006: The Burkel paintings are repatriated to Germany by the U.S.
Pablo Picasso: Le pigeon aux petits pois(1911).
In December 2002, two thieves used a ladder to climb to the roof and break in to the Vincent Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, The Netherlands. In just a few minutes the thieves stole two paintings: Van Gogh’s View of the Sea at Scheveningen and Congregation Leaving the Reformed Church in Nuenen, valued at $30 million. Dutch police convicted two men in December 2003, but did not recover the paintings.
Forensic analysis of ash found in Mrs. Dogaru’s stove, conducted by Romania’s National History Museum, found nails and tacks that indicated that at least three had been burned.
Franz Marc: The Tower of Blue Horses 1913 (missing since 1945).
Carl Spitzweg: Der Liebesbrief 1845-1846 (missing since 1989).
IF YOU HAVE ANY INFORMATION CONCERNING THESE WORKS OF ART OR CIRCUMSTANCES OF THESE CRIMES, PLEASE CONTACT YOUR LOCAL FIELD OFFICE OR THE NEAREST U.S. EMBASSY OR CONSULATE.