The most expensive lost cultural valuables
13 artworks from the Boston Museum
A robbery happened on the night of March 18, 1990, at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, resulting in the loss of 13 exhibits worth around $500 million. Works by Jan Vermeer, Rembrandt, Edouard Manet, and Edgar Degas were among them.
It took 81 minutes to perform the robbery. They entered the museum dressed as police officers, apparently responding to an emergency call, and quickly killed two employees guarding the multimillion-dollar collection. Jan Vermeer counts the total value of the theft as more than $200 million. This painting, one of 36 known works by the Dutch artist, was probably painted around 1663-1666 and is probably the most valuable stolen item of art in the world.
The museum has set a $1 million reward for information that would help to find the collection. Later they changed the reward, increasing it up to 5 million. The FBI announced in 2013 that it was on the chase for criminals. However, their names were never revealed, and the stolen canvases were never found. The Bureau clarified that a number of exhibits had probably already changed hands several times, with the owners being unaware of their worth.
The Room of Amber.
The Amber Room’s traces were abandoned in 1945. Experts now estimate the cost to be $150 million.
The amber panels with mosaic painting elements were created in Prussia in 1716 and presented to Russian Emperor Peter I by King Friedrich Wilhelm I. In Russia, the room was enhanced with mirrored pilasters, paintings, panels, amber products, and interior items. The Amber Room has been located in Tsarskoye Selo’s Great Catherine Palace since 1755. During the invasion of Tsarskoye Selo in 1941, the Germans demolished the cabinet and transported it to Königsberg (now Kaliningrad). The Amber Room was last seen in early April 1945 in a packed state in the basement of the Konigsberg Castle, which burned down during the German troops’ escape.
The investigation was undertaken in the Baltic States, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, the Czech Republic, and South America for many years. The room was said to have burned down in a fire or to have been buried on Konigsberg territory. The USSR founded a commission in 1967 to search for the masterpiece, but after 17 years of work, it was unable to find it. At the same time, a Russian emigrant, Baron Eduard Falz-Fein, started up an investigation and announced a $500 thousand reward for useful information.
Private individuals found three authentic fragments of the Amber Room in Germany in 1997 — a Florentine mosaic “Sense of Smell and Touch” (approximately at $250 thousand) and an amber chest of drawers ($200 thousand). The discovery confirmed the story that the room was not burned down but instead was transported to Germany. The fragments were returned to Russia and demonstrated in the reconstructed Amber Room in Tsarskoye Selo. A replica took 22 years, 6 tons of amber, and $11.35 million to create (70 percent was given by the budget, 30 percent by Ruhrgas AG).
Raphael’s painting “Portrait of a Young man”
Since 1945, the location of Raphael’s painting “Portrait of a Young Man” worth about $100 million is unknown. The piece was created in 1513-1514, supposedly it is a self-portrait of the artist.
In 1798, the “Portrait of a Young Man” appeared in Poland, where it was brought from Italy by Prince Adam Jerzy Czartoryski. Since then, the painting has been in the museum that was organized by his mother in Krakow. In 1939, after the beginning of the Second World War, the portrait was hidden in the Czartoryski family estate in Senyawa but was soon found by the Gestapo. From Poland, the canvas was sent to the Hitler Museum in Linz, and in 1945 it was transported to Wawel Castle, which served as the residence of the Governor-General of occupied Poland, Hans Frank.
Following the liberation of Poland by Soviet troops, Frank escaped to Silesia, and from there to Bavaria, with the collection. He was arrested by the American military on May 4, 1945. There was no “Portrait of a Young Man” among the masterpieces found with him. During the interrogations, Frank revealed the locations where the Nazi government had hidden the confiscated paintings, but none of them contained the painting.
The legitimate owner of the canvas, the Foundation of the Princes of Czartoryski, heard rumors about its fate … The portrait got into the hands of Swiss bankers, then it was sold to Russia, then it turned out to be in North America In August 2012, the representative of the Polish Foreign Ministry for the restitution of cultural property, Wojciech Kowalski, said that the masterpiece was not burned or destroyed, but was “safe in one of the bank safes”. It was not specified in which country the bank is located. Since then, no new information about the portrait has appeared.
Five paintings from the Museum of Modern Art in Paris
One of the stolen artworks was created by Henri Matisse.
On the night of May 20, 2010, five masterpieces were stolen from the Paris Museum of Modern Art: Pablo Picasso’s “Dove with Green Peas,” Henri Matisse’s “Pastoral,” Georges Braque’s “Olive near the Estac,” Amedeo Modigliani’s “Woman with a Fan,” and Fernand Leger’s “Still Life with Candlesticks.”
The museum estimated total damage at €100 million, though the prosecutor’s office initially stated €500 million. Picasso’s most expensive work cost €23 million, while Matisse’s cost €15 million. Other works’ costs were not indicated. The robbery only took 15 minutes. The thief gained access to the building by breaking the iron fence’s lock and squeezing out the window glass (the alarm system has been broken since the beginning of March). The police assumed right away that it was a single performer because security cameras captured only one person leaving the museum.
The robber worked carefully: the canvases were removed from the frames rather than cut out, as is usual. Later, it was indicated that the thief intended to steal only one painting, but because the alarm system did not work, he decided to take four more. The loss was discovered in the morning after the guards had not heard anything.
France has officially requested assistance from Interpol. The organization’s experts assumed that the theft was engaged “under order”: all of the canvases are well-known, and the open sale was not possible. The French officers arrested three suspects, according to media reports in October 2011. One of them, Jonotan B., a 34-year-old watchmaker, claimed that he panicked and managed to throw the paintings into the trash before being arrested. However, not everyone believed this version: some believe the canvases were removed from the country.
Eight Faberge eggs
Of the 54 jewelry Easter eggs made by Karl Faberge for the Russian royal family, only 46 have survived to this day. The cost of the missing eight products is estimated at $100 million.
The 1885-1917 collection was lost during the revolution. It is known that the Soviet government sold 32 confiscated eggs abroad in the 1920s and 1930s (at 500 rubles apiece; although the average cost of one product at prices of the XIX-XX centuries was 3-8 thousand rubles). Ten eggs remained in Kremlin museums, while four went to private collections.
The fate of the others is unknown. Historians believe the jewelry was stolen. There was no official investigation reported. Among the missing eggs is a malachite “Cherub and Chariot” and “Dressing Case,” a gold and diamond “Portraits of Alexander III” egg, and a pink-purple egg with three miniatures. Each one costs more than $10 million on average. Viktor Vekselberg paid more than $100 million for a set of nine Easter products in 2004.
Some Americans found photos of one of the collection’s missing copies in the 1964 catalog of the British auction house Parke Bernet (now Sotheby’s) in August 2011. According to the catalog, the egg was made of gold and decorated with precious stones — three sapphires, diamonds, and emeralds — and went under the hammer for $2.5 thousand. The new owner was not identified. The product’s location is still unknown. According to experts, the true value of the once-purchased copy of the Imperial Collection reached £20 million ($33.8 million).
Van Gogh’s painting “Poppies” Or “Vase with flowers”
Vincent Van Gogh’s painting “Poppies,” also known as “Vase with Flowers” (1887), was stolen from Cairo’s Mahmoud Khalil Museum on August 22, 2010. The masterpiece costs around $55 million.
The robbery occurred shortly after the museum’s opening. The preliminary investigation revealed that nine people visited the museum even before the robbery. Those who were in the building at the time of the theft were immediately searched, and two Italian tourists were detained at the airport for questioning, but the involvement of visitors in the crime was not proven. Later, it was discovered that the building’s alarm system was not operational on the day of the robbery, and only 7 of the 43 surveillance cameras were turned on.
The arrested on suspicion in the theft case was Egypt’s Ministry of Culture’s department head, Mohsen Shaalyan, and ten museum employees. A court decision in October 2010 punished all of them to three years probation for negligence. The search for the painting was put on hold for the time being.
In 2012, British experts proposed that the stolen “Poppies” are simply an exact replica of Van Gogh’s canvas. According to researchers, the original was stolen from the Egyptian museum in 1978, and a copy was later returned. According to this version, the original was kept in the collection of a major Egyptian official for 33 years before being auctioned off for $35 million in London in 2010. This version received no confirmation or refutation. According to some reports, traces of the canvas stolen in 2010 were discovered in London in 2012. The painting’s exact location is still unknown.
Henry Moore’s sculpture “The Bent Figure”
The bronze sculpture “The Bent Figure” by English modernist Henry Moore, created in 1970, was stolen in December 2005 from an exhibition at the artist’s London property Perry Green. The project was estimated to cost $5 million.
The British considered this bronze figure to be a national treasure. It had a length of 3.5 meters, a height of 2 meters, and a width of 2 meters. It weighed about 2 tons. The sculpture, on the other hand, was not secured in any way. The attackers broke into the estate at night, loaded the “Figure” onto a truck with a crane, and fled the crime scene unnoticed. The insurance compensation received by the sculptor’s personal fund as a result of the incident exceeded the experts’ total estimate and amounted to £3 million (approximately $5.1 million).
The police announced the conclusion of the investigation on May 17, 2009. According to police departments, the “Bent figure” was cut up almost immediately after the theft, transported abroad (most likely to Rotterdam, and then to China), and melted down. It was suspected that the robbers received approximately £1.5 thousand ($2.5 thousand), which is significantly less than the market value of two tons of bronze.
However, the police did not name the criminals or expose the facts that led them to such conclusions. The museum is still offering a reward of £10 thousand for information that could help in the search for the sculpture if it is still in existence. Meanwhile, another work by Henry Moore’s authorship from the series “Bent figures” is ” Reclining figure. Festival” — it was auctioned off at Christie’s in 2011. The amount raised for it, £19.1 million ($32.2 million), set a global record for sculptures.
In 1995, a 1727 Antonio Stradivari violin is known as the Davidoff-Morini was stolen from the New York apartment of the famous Austrian violinist Erika Morini. The instrument is estimated to cost $3.5 million.
The violin belonged to Russian composer and cellist Karl Davydov in the nineteenth century, and after his death, it belonged to the first American female violinist, Mud Powell. Powell gifted the instrument to the “great master” shortly before her death in 1920. After hearing the young violinist Erica Morini play, her widowed husband decided to give her the violin.
The violinist was hospitalized at the age of 92 due to heart problems, and it was during this time that the violin was stolen from an empty apartment. Erica Morini died a few days later without getting known about the missing instrument. The violinist’s relatives opened an investigation after the theft, but detectives found no evidence of criminal activities or even signs of a break-in. It was assumed that the abduction was performed by a member of Morini’s entourage.
Following a loss, it was revealed that the violin was insured for $800,000 dollars. Meanwhile, experts estimated that it would cost $3.5 million. The FBI placed the instrument on its list of most wanted works of art in 2005. Only 650 original Antonio Stradivari musical instruments are thought to have survived to this day.
Icon of the Kazan Mother of God
After the Kazan fire of 1579, the Russian national shrine-the icon of the Kazan Mother of God-was discovered in the ashes. The icon was kept in the Kazan Bogoroditsky Monastery until 1904, when it was stolen by a 28-year-old thief named Bartholomew Chaikin and his companion Ananiy Komov, who were caught in hot pursuit and put in prison to 12 and 10 years of hard labor, respectively. During the court hearing, they admitted the image was burned in the oven. Later, it was revealed that the icon was not destroyed, but rather sold to the Old Believers.
People began talking about the icon again in 1950. The icon fell into the hands of English art collector Mitchell Hedgis. He repeatedly offered the icon to the Russian Orthodox Church, but the price of $92 thousand was too high. After Hedgis’ death, his relatives sold the icon to the Catholic organization Blue Army for $3 million in 1970. The icon first appeared in the papal chambers of the Vatican in March 1993, thanks to a donation from the Blue Army.
The icon was presented to the Moscow Patriarchate by the Vatican in 2004. Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow and All Russia handed it over to the Kazan Diocese on July 21, 2005, and the shrine was installed in the Holy Cross Church of Kazan.
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