Chain of thefts from Zurich museums

1. Paul Cézanne (1839-1906)
The Boy in the
Red Vest

Oil on canvas - 80 x 64.5 cm
Zurich, Collection Bührle’s Collection
(stolen on 10/2/08)
Photo : Bührle Collection

17/02/08— Thefts — Zurich — Apparently Swiss museums are not as resistant to robbers as the safes in the local banks. In close succession, two stunning thefts have shaken the tranquillity of this European haven. Wednesday 6 February, two Picasso canvases estimated at around 3 million euros vanished into thin air from the walls of the Zeedam Kulturzentrum in Pfaffikon. The operation went so smoothly that it was discovered only after closing hours. The Glass and Pitcher (1944) and Head of a Horse (1962) were on loan from the Sprengel Museum of Hanover. Only four days later, on Sunday 10 February it was the discreet Fondation-Collection E.G. Bührle’s turn to fall victim to art thieves. Late in the afternoon, three men wearing ski masks held the few visitors and museum guards present at gun point. They grabbed four paintings with their frames, threw them in the back of their white van and made their getaway moments before the police arrived on the scene. The heist is estimated at over 115 million €. Indeed, among the very rich Impressionist and post-Impressionist collection assembled by the German industrialist E.G.Bürhle between 1934 and 1956, the thieves took a Cezanne from 1888 known worldwide (The Boy in the Red Vest), a Poppies near Vertheuil by ClaudeMonet (1879-80) one of his most famous landscapes, Ludovic Lepic and his Daughters by Degas (1871) and a colourful Blossoming Chestnut Branches by Van Gogh (1890, a somewhat disputed attribution).

2. Claude Monet (1840-1926)
Poppies near Vetheuil
Oil on canvas - 71.5 x 90.5 cm
Bührle’s Collection (stolen on 10/2/08)
Photo : Bührle Collection

3. Edgar Degas (1834-1917)
Ludovic Lepic
and his Daughters

Oil on canvas - 65.5 x 81 cm
Bührle’s Collection (stolen on 10/2/08)
Photo : Bührle Collection

Who stands to profit from this robbery ? As it is impossible to sell them on the market, will these highly celebrated canvases end up in a wealthy collector’s home for his solitary viewing pleasure ? Will they be used to launder the product of some illicit commerce ? Or will they serve in exchange for ransom of some kind ?

4. Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890)
Blossoming Chestnut Branches, 1890
Oil on canvas - 72.5 x 81 cm
Bührle’s Collection (stolen on 10/2/08)
Photo : Bührle Collection

No doubt the Fondation-Collection E.G.Bührle-which only opens its doors four afternoons a week for three short hours-would have preferred to keep its discretion from being shattered by this holdup. It will nevertheless have helped to make its name known to the public, largely unaware of this marvellous and very beautiful collection where there remain many master pieces by Renoir, Monet, Sisley, Cézanne, Mary Cassatt, Seurat, Vlaminck as well as by Tiepolo, Patinir, Rubens, Rembrandt, Boucher, Ingres, Géricault, Corot and Goya. But the museum is now to remain closed for some time, except for groups with reservations !

Internet Website of the Bührle Collection

Version française

Daniel Couty, dimanche 17 février 2008

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