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No Longer A Need To Miss Munch

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Ahh! My parent's have flown to Paris without me and left me home alone!One of the most famous paintings of the modern era has been found by Norwegian police. And it is relatively unharmed. The painting needs no introduction; it has become a kind of emblem of modernity, seen on neckties and cubicle calendars across the world.

The Scream, along with Madonna, were stolen in 2004 by a few thieves who simply entered the Munch Museum and lifted them off the walls, threatening visitors as they made their way to the door. They even used a getaway car to escape. Luckily, the robbers were all captured and later sentenced in May 2006, but the paintings had not been recovered until just recently. And art historians are certain that the paintings found are the genuine articles.

The history of art theft is a fascinating one . . .


To the left is Munch’s less famous Madonna.

This is actually the second time the painting has been stolen; a different version was lifted from the National Gallery in Oslo in 1994, but recovered three months later. Munch is in good company however; in the last fifteen years the following artists have all had work stolen: Picasso, Renoir, Vermeer, Rembrandt (he has many paintings still on the ‘missing’ list) Van Gogh, Manet, Norman Rockwell, Goya, Breughel, and Leonardo da Vinci (you know, the guy that everybody talks about in that movie with Tom Hanks). It seems that to make it into the pantheon of great artists, your work has to be stolen at least once. Though a second time doesn’t hurt either (the price, and provenance, of The Scream will probably go up significantly in years to come).

Apparently one of the more accomplished art thieves stole about $1 billion worth of Old Master paintings over a seven year period, keeping them all in his mother’s apartment. He was arrested in 2001, but his mother avoided detection for a little while, giving her just enough time to systematically destroy part of his ‘collection’ by cutting them up and dumping them in the Rhine. Among the works destroyed were a Breughel and a Watteau, along with other less well known, but still valuable paintings.

Rembrandt's Daddy

The Mona Lisa was stolen in 1911 and hidden under a mattress, but recovered two years later in Italy. In a strange robbery at the National Gallery in London in 1961, Goya’s famous portrait of the Duke of Wellington was taken. A suspect was arrested and the painting recovered three months later. The thief claimed he wanted to ransom the painting off so he could purchase TV licences for the poor. A modern day Robin Hood it appears. He only served three months in prison, and decades later the Gallery released papers that indicated he probably didn’t do it after all. The true culprit remains incognito.

Along with a few Rembrandt’s, including the portrait of his father, seen at right, there are still missing works by Manet, Degas, Vermeer and especially Van Gogh, a very popular target for thieves.

So, we must welcome back Mr. Munch to the public eye, and hope that he stays put for a good long time. Now, if only I could get someone to steal some of my work, I’d be well on my way…

Below is Van Gogh’s Congregation leaving the Reformed Church in Nuenen, stolen from the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam in 2002.llewopemearg


One Comment leave one →
  1. Tuesday, September 26, 2006 2:46 pm

    For all those anxiously awaiting an update on this story, here it is! Don’t say I never do nothing for ya.

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