After the British Museum thefts, what other major art heists have there been?

The British Museum’s director, Hartwig Fischer, has said he will step down from his role after treasures were found to be missing from the London institution. The Metropolitan police have said they have interviewed a man in connection with the suspected thefts.

Here are some high-profile cultural heists.

Hartwig Fischer

Van Gogh and Frans Hals paintings theft, the Netherlands, 2020

In the early hours of 30 March 2020, a thief used a sledgehammer to smash through the reinforced glass front door of the Singer Laren Museum near Amsterdam before fleeing with an early masterpiece by Van Gogh.

The thief, who arrived and fled on a motorbike, walked out of the museum with Van Gogh’s The Parsonage Garden at Nuenen in Spring (1884) tucked under his right arm. Five months later, he broke into the Hofje van Mevrouw van Aerden Museum in Leerdam and made off with Hals’s Two Laughing Boys.

The perpetrator, identified only as Nils M, from Baarn, was sentenced to eight years in prison for stealing the works, collectively valued at £20m, which have yet to be recovered.

Painting: The Parsonage Garden at Nuenen in Spring

18th-century jewel theft, Dresden 2019

The theft of 18th-century jewels worth more than £98m from a Dresden museum in 2019 was one of the most audacious art heists in history. In the early hours of the morning of 25 November, thieves wearing masks and wielding axes broke into the Grünes Gewölbe (Green Vault) museum and made off with 21 pieces of jewellery containing more than 4,300 diamonds.

Montage of jewels

Five men, all members of a notorious criminal family network, were convicted of the theft in May this year. Police recovered many of the jewels, including a diamond-encrusted sword, but it is feared that the rest of the looted treasure, including a 49-carat diamond estimated to be worth about £9.5m, may never be found.

Edvard Munch’s The Scream and Madonna, Oslo, 2004

Picasso's Poverty

Edvard Munch’s masterpieces The Scream and Madonna were stolen from the Munch museum in Oslo by two masked gunmen in a daylight raid in front of stunned onlookers on 22 August 2004. The paintings were recovered in 2006 after three men were convicted over the thefts, and the paintings returned to the Munch Museum.

Gauguin, Picasso and van Gogh, Manchester, 2003

In 2003, thieves stole paintings by Paul Gauguin, Pablo Picasso and Vincent van Gogh from the Whitworth Art Gallery in Manchester. Although the works were relatively minor, the incident gained notoriety because the thieves stuffed the paintings into a cardboard tube, which they then hid in a toilet near the museum, which the media dubbed ‘the Loovre’. The works, worth about £4m in 2003, were recovered, but the culprits have yet to be identified.

Rembrandt theft, 1966, London, and in 1973, 1981 and 1983

Rembrandt’s 1632 painting Jacob de Gheyn III was first stolen in 1966 from the Dulwich Picture Gallery in London, along with two other works by the Dutch artist and five other old masters. The painting has since earned the moniker the “takeaway Rembrandt” as it has been stolen a further three times, in 1973, 1981 and 1983, making it the most frequently stolen major painting, according to the Guinness Book of Records. Jacob de Gheyn was recovered after every theft and is on view at the museum today.

Portrait of Jacques de Gheyn III
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