Saturday, March 01, 2008

Theft Down Under!

I was alerted to this tale of bold theft by a fellow writer who lives in New South Wales, Australia. It seems a 17th century painting by Frans van Mieris, titled A Cavalier, disappeared from the Art Gallery of New South Wales last June. This was a daring snatch committed during public viewing hours on a fine Sunday morning. The painting is valued at 1.6 million dollars. No trace of the piece has been spotted since it vanished.

The director of the gallery, Edmund Capon, is quoted as saying, "I am deeply shocked. Well over a million people visit the Gallery each year, and this is a very rare occurence as the security measures at the Gallery are sound and proven. The work is a valuable and important artwork which was painted in 1657/59."

An article on the crime stated that the gallery's camera films are being reviewed by the police. My author friend calls that bit of information "disingenuous." He says there were no cameras in the area where the painting was stolen, and "security was pretty slack for that kind of art work."

A quote in the Sydney Morning Herald says, "All that was required was a Phillips head screwdriver to remove two $2.45 wall fastenings. About 60 seconds. A Cavalier, oil on wood panel, was small, 20 x 16 centimetres, and easily concealed. The thief walked out with it."

According to the Herald, police do not consider this a spur-of-the-moment theft. However, no inside help or information was required. It would have been evident to anyone studying the gallery that no cameras were present in the area, the guard strolled through only occasionally, and removal of the painting from the wall would be ridiculously simple and quick.

"The caption on the work might as well have read 'Steal me!'," commented my fellow writer from Down Under.

Unfortunately, this caption could be posted on many priceless works of art the world over. While art theft is more rampant than I had ever guessed before I began the research for my book series, I'm surprised there isn't more of it. Well, maybe not, considering how difficult it is for thieves to unload well-known pieces.

In any case, perhaps I should send Desiree Jacobs' HJ Secrurities business card to Mr. Capon. Fictional security might well have done the job as nicely as what little was factually there. By the way, this theft is now listed among the FBI's top ten art crimes. If anyone has information on the crime, the number to call is 1800-333-000.

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