Art Heist Goes Terribly Wrong

claude-monets-1901-waterloo-bridge2
Claude Monet’s 1901 Waterloo Bridge

Evidence seems to confirm that the world is suddenly bereft of six masterpieces—and a Lucien Freud.

In a tale of theatrical complications, Romanian mom, Olga Dogaru explained to police that she burned the works to ashes in her oven in order to insure that there would be no evidence against her son, Radu, who was under arrest on suspicion of lifting them from the Kunsthal museum back in October of last year.

Amongst the works taken in what is universally described as a spectacular heist, were two pastels in colored ink on paper, one by Picasso and one by Matisse , and four modern masters paintings, including a Matisse, a Gauguin, a Monet, a Meyer de Haan. The theives also snatched a painting by Lucien Freud.

Although Ms. Dogaru has changed her story several times in the past weeks, the possibility that the works were indeed incinerated is still under investigation. Forensic scientists at Romania’s National History Museum say it will take months to verify, yet the evidence that Ms. Dogaru’s story is true seems overwhelming.

Ernest Oberlander-Tarnoveanu, the director of the National History Museum told the New York Times that his team had discovered materials that Matisse or Gauguin would have used to prep their canvases, along with samples of colors which, because of toxicity, have not been used since the 19th century. Pre-industrial copper nails and tacks were also found in the ashes.

“Such items, Tarnoveanu told the Times, “would be nearly impossible to fake.”

It may be impossible to conclusively identify if the two pastels by Picasso and Matisse, were burned, Mr. Oberlander-Tarnoveanu said. “Unfortunately, it’s impossible to assess those remains,” he said, “because the burned paper was basically turned into pure carbon.”

See The New York Times slideshow of the destroyed works

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