Search for the World's Most Wanted Art
2004's Most Wanted Art

This is a journalistic inquiry by  Saz Productions, Inc. to acquire information for a television  & new media production.  In the process we hope to publicize lost art and offer assistance towards its recovery.  Collectors, journalists, researchers, police, and others with questions or contributions e-mail 

* December 2004 -
This past month saw a few minor thefts around the globe and some interesting developments on the technical side of forgery and stolen art recognition.  To begin in Europe, London's Victoria and Albert Museum continues to suffer from a string of thefts.  The most recent loss included a set of Renaissance bronze plaques.  For more information see the BBC.

In France, a painting by Millet, "Portrait of a Man" was stolen from the Fine Art Museum of Reims (story in French
).  An African mask was stolen from a museum in Munich (story in German) and Venice Italy saw a Villa burglary with a loss estimated at over a million Euros.  It's not the first time art thieves have used a boat to abscond with loot.  Still, the Canals of Venice make an interesting backdrop for any crime.

Next, there were several items concerning rare book and map thefts this past month.  In Lexington, Kentucky
a library thief made off with a first edition of Darwin's "Origin of the Species", several John Audubon sketches, and other items.  In Ohio, David Breithaupt pleaded guilty to stealing some 50 rare books from the Kenyon College library including an 1528 edition of Ptolemy's ``Almagest''.  Also, Peter Bellwood, who traveled Britain and Europe stealing rare maps from libraries was jailed for four-and-a-half years in the UK.

Other news includes some interesting developments in imaging technology as it relates to detecting fake and stolen art.  Dartmouth's Professor Hany Farid (et al) have developed imaging software designed to detect art forgeries in some very sophisticated ways.  For details see the National Academy of Science paper
.  Next, a German researcher Dr. Bertram Nickolay and Derdack (a company involved with software for a picture cell phones) have developed a technology able to identify object from INTERPOL's stolen art database with a picture phone.  They intend to launch a pilot program later this year.  For details (in German) see Derdack.

Finally, we are off to Las Vegas for the annual  National Association of Television Programming Executives (NATPE) conference January 24-27th.  We are looking for the right media company that would like to develop our material
for the small screen.  Hope to see you at the conference.

* December 2004 - covering the month of November -

This past month was rather slow on the art theft beat.  It ended on a sour note, with a Manhattan score.  Two thieves stole a painting by Theodore Chasseriau from a New York art gallery.  See WNBC

Next, London's V&A was hit for the third time in recent months.  Fifteen Meissen
figurines are the most recent loss in their string of thefts.

Next, what's a good place to find stolen art?  Try a museum.  A religious painting stolen from Mexico (San Juan Tepemazalco 1728 painting of Adam and Eve's expulsion from the Garden of Eden) was discovered to be hanging in a the San Diego Museum of Art.  Officials are investigating.

And finally I'd like to share an interesting on-line blog, James Parker's - the Art Stealer.

* November 2004 -
Lots of action around the world this past month.  To begin, some interesting jade pieces have gone missing. In the UK, Asian jades have been stolen from the Victoria and Albert Museum, see BBC
. In Honduras a Mayan jade figurine was also stolen from exhibition.

Elsewhere in the art world, in Germany a painting by Jan Brughel and other pieces were stolen from the home of an auction house owner. In German see Berlin police

In Switzerland, thieves broke into the Neumann Foundation museum and stole glass artworks made by Galle, worth $3.3 million. See Vaud

In the US it was relatively quite.  A man snatched a black-and-white etching by Pablo Picasso from a wall at The Erotic Museum in Hollywood. A rare rod and tackle were stolen from a Maine fishing museum, and thefts continue in Santa Fe, where a Navaho blanket and other pieces went missing. Rare books of Mormon were recovered and a disputed Picasso has been seized.

As to major art recoveries, a Titian stolen in Cyprus was recovered in Bulgaria.  The question as to whether this is truly by the master is in doubt. In Brazil 24 Latin American paintings were recovered in San Palo.

A rare Persian carpet was returned to an Iranian museum, In China
three Ming dynasty Buddha's (200kg white jade) stolen from a Xuefeng Chong temple were quickly recovered. In New Zealand, recently stolen Mori nephrite artifacts have been recovered, and in Mexico 19 Zapotec pieces were recovered by the PGR.

* October 2004 -
Well, this past month ended with a major (fourteen million dollar) gem theft in Paris.  Two diamonds, a 47 carat white and a 15.74 carat blue diamond, were taken from an underground exhibition area near the Louvre. see CNN

Elsewhere, the art world got a little good news.  An ancient Persepolis bas relief
was recovered in Iran.  Here in the States, a Maxfield Parrish painting stolen some 20 years ago was recovered in San Francisco.  In Santa Fe, NM a Joseph Henry Sharp painting (stolen this past January) was recovered.  Also in New Mexico, a stolen 300 year old Mexican altarpiece was found and returned.  It's nice to note the occasional happy ending.

Behind the scenes INTERPOL held their 4th International Conference on the Illicit Traffic in Cultural Property
.  The Romanian meeting focused on Central and Eastern Europe.  And finally, some personnel changes at (ICOM) the International Council of Museums.  Manus Brinkman ends his tenure as Secretary General.  Also departing, Valerie Jullien ICOM's long time director of communications.  We wish each of them the best of luck in their future endeavors and extend our appreciation for the fine work they've done.

* September 2004 -
The art world was rocked by the loss of two major works from the Munch Museet in Oslo, Norway.  Editions of "Scream" and "Madonna" by Edvard Munch were stolen by armed assailants in the museum's public hours. For details see INTERPOL

Other crimes include a Shishkin landscape (picture
& story in Russian) stolen from a Museum in Ples, a Joseph Marie Vien painting was stolen from a Parisian Church, all in all nothing too big.

On a judicial note, the Rikers Island guards (who stole a Salvador Dali oddly from a NY jail) were sentenced for their crime.  And a curator in China
was sentenced to death for pilfering antiquities from an Imperial summer resort turned museum.  Such are the profits of crime..

* August 2004 -
This past month, a significant theft occurred in Rome.  On the night of July 31 ten artworks were stolen from Santo Espiritu Hospital including pieces by Lanfranco, D'Arpino, and Mazola (also known as Il Parmisiano).  The missing pieces were valued at 4 million Euros.
For details (in Spanish) see El Mundo

Elsewhere, there were minor works by major artists stolen around the world.  In Cologne Germany a Winter Landscape by Esaias Van de Velde (1591-1630) was stolen from the Wallraf-Richartz Museum and quickly recovered
.  A Picasso charcoal was stolen from a yacht in Miami, Florida. A Matta sketch was stolen in another one of Santa-Fe's string of art thefts.
For details about these crimes see

* July 2004 -
The works of surreal painter Salvador Dali made some news this past month.  A valuable sketch was stolen from an owner in Europe (see BBC
), while an exhibition of the artists work was raided and closed by police in Helsinki, Finland.  The works on exhibit were forgeries, for details again see BBC.

On this side of the Atlantic, two National College Football trophies
were stolen from Florida State University.  The $30,000 crystal pieces were soon replaced by the institution.  Also of note, the US Supreme Court handed down a decision that allows the lawsuit of Altman vs. Austria to proceed.  This landmark law suit involves Egon Schilie paintings acquired in the Nazi era.

Jonathan Sazonoff

Archive: 2004 UPDATES (Part I) January - June 2004
Archive: 2003 UPDATES (Part II) July - December 2003
Archive: 2003 UPDATES (Part I) January - June 2003
Archive: 2002 UPDATES
Archive: 2001 UPDATES
Archive: 2000 UPDATES
Archive: 1999 UPDATES