Skip to content

Stolen $110 million Cezanne believed recovered by Serbian police

April 12, 2012

Detail from a police handout of Paul Cezanne's The Boy in the Red Waistcoat, believed to have been recovered by Serbian police. Photograph: Ho/Reuters

Wow! The Guardian reports a Cezanne portrait worth more than $110 million, stolen in 2008, has been recovered by Serbian Police.  UPDATE – ArtDaily  carries this Associate Press report about the recovery of Cezanne’s The Boy in the Red Waistcoat:

BELGRADE (AP).- Police from Serbia and Switzerland have recovered a Paul Cezanne masterpiece that was stolen from a Swiss museum in 2008 and captured four men as they were trying to sell it, officials said Thursday.

During a news conference in Belgrade, officials played a video showing how police had arrested one of the four suspects in a Belgrade suburb and found the painting in the roof upholstery of a black van, handcuffed the driver and dragged him away.

Serbian special police guarded the masterpiece in a news conference | Photo: Darko Vojinovic / AP

Clearly proud of the police raids on Wednesday and Thursday, officials displayed “The Boy in the Red Vest” by the French impressionist, with two masked Serbian special policemen armed with machine guns standing alongside of it.

A Swiss expert authenticated the oil on canvas painting, which was stolen from E. G. Buhrle Collection in Zurich along with three other masterpieces by Claude Monet, Vincent van Gogh and Edgar Degas. Zurich prosecutors also said that the museum certified that the painting is the original by Cezanne.

A Serbian police officer opens a packet taken from a vehicle that they searched looking for the masterpiece by French impressionist Paul Cezanne, "The Boy in the Red Vest" in Belgrade Thursday April 12, 2012 in this image taken from video released by the Serbian Interior Ministry. The masterpiece by French impressionist Paul Cezanne, "The Boy in the Red Vest" which was stolen from a private Swiss museum in 2008 in one of the biggest art thefts in Europe, was discovered in Serbia, police said Thursday. Serbian police went on to say three people were arrested in connection with the robbery. AP Photo/Serbian Interior Ministry/AP Video.

The work was worth 100 million Swiss francs ($110 million, €84 million) when it was stolen by three masked gunmen who witnesses said spoke German with a Slavic accent in what was one of the biggest art thefts in Europe at the time.

“I think this is really an impressive action conducted jointly with Swiss police,” said Miljko Radisavljevic, Serbia’s organized crime prosecutor.

He said four men, including the leader of the gang that conducted the robbery, were arrested in raids in Belgrade, the capital, and the central city of Cacak.

Soon after the robbery on Feb. 10, 2008, Monet’s “Poppy field at Vetheuil” and van Gogh’s “Blooming Chestnut Branches” were discovered undamaged in a car parked at a mental hospital in Zurich. About a year later, Degas’ “Ludovic Lepic and his Daughter,” worth about 10 million francs ($11 million, €8 million), was returned to the Swiss museum after a €400,000 reward was paid to and unidentified person, Serbian officials said.

BELGRADE.- A Serbian police display the masterpiece by French impressionist Paul Cezanne, The Boy in the Red Vest which they discovered in a vehicle in Belgrade Thursday April 12, 2012 in this image taken from video released by the Serbian Interior Ministry. Themasterpiece by French impressionist Paul Cezanne, The Boy in the Red Vest which was stolen from a private Swiss museum in 2008 in one of the biggest art thefts in Europe,was discovered in Serbia, police said Thursday. Serbian police went on to say three people were arrested in connection with the robbery. AP Photo/Serbian Interior Ministry/AP Video.

Serbian Interior Minister Ivica Dacic said the police raids, planned since 2010, took place when the suspected robbers decided to take the Cezanne painting to a wealthy Serb who agreed to buy it for €3.5 million ($4.6 million). Dacic said that nearly €1.5 million ($2 million) in cash and firearms were found with the four arrested men.

“Of course, they could not sell the painting for its real price,” Dacic said. “It’s amazing standing besides this masterpiece.”

He said one of the arrested men was the leader of the gang that conducted the robbery, while the three others are believed to be accomplices in the crime.

They will stand trial in Serbia, Dacic said.

Art experts have suggested the robbers took advantage of low security at the Swiss museum without knowing about the paintings or how difficult it can be to sell such well-known stolen art works.

The robbers took the first four paintings they reached when they raided the museum shortly before closing time on a Sunday. Although the most valuable painting was among the ones they took, they left behind the second most precious picture in the room, Cezanne’s “Self Portrait with Palette,” insured for 90 million francs ($98 million, €75 million.)

Here’s the initial report from the Guardian:

Police in Serbia believe they have recovered an impressionist masterpiece by Paul Cezanne worth at least £68m that was stolen at gunpoint in one of the world’s biggest art heists four years ago, a police official has said.

“We believe the painting is Cezanne’s Boy in a Red Waistcoat and three suspects were detained in connection with that,” said a police official.

“Experts in Serbia and abroad are trying to ascertain whether the painting is an original. This painting is worth tens of millions of euros,” the official added.

The canvas was one of four paintings stolen from a Swiss art gallery in 2008 by a trio of masked robbers who burst in just before closing time and told staff to lay on the floor.

The paintings were reportedly worth over £100m at the time and the heist was the biggest art theft in Swiss history and one of the largest in the world. The painting was stolen in 2008 from the Emil Georg Bührle gallery in Zurich, a private collection founded by a second world war arms dealer and entrepreneur.

Two of the stolen canvasses, one by Claude Monet and the other by Vincent van Gogh, were recovered days later abandoned in a car, but the other two – the Cezanne and a painting by Edgar Degas, have been missing for the last four years.

Cezanne’s Boy in a Red Waistcoat is thought to have been painted around 1888 and depicts a boy in traditional Italian dress – a red waistcoat, a blue handkerchief and a blue belt. Three other versions of the painting are in museums in the United States.

Last October, Serbian police recovered two paintings by Pablo Picasso stolen in 2008 from a gallery in the Swiss town of Pfäffikon, near Zurich.

The police official said law enforcement agencies from several countries had co-operated in the investigation that led to the apparent recovery of the Cezanne masterpiece.

Serbia’s state prosecutor is expected to issue a statement or give a press briefing on the case later on Thursday.

No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: