23m Worth Francis Bacon Paintings Stolen

Art News

March 14, 2016

Five paintings by the acclaimed British painter Francis Bacon have been stolen from a home in the center of Madrid. The owner of the artworks got the stolen paintings as a gift from the Irish artist who spent his last days and eventually died in the Spanish capital in 1992. Although the robbery took place last June the details of the heist haven't been reported to the media until yesterday (on Sunday, March 13th, 2016). According to the police, the thieves stole several portrait and landscape pieces by the prominent artist. The media in Spain have described the robbery as "the biggest art theft in decades" as the estimated value of these pieces is set at about 23 million pounds.

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Francis Bacon - Head I Head III and Head IV, 1948

The Details of the Theft in Madrid

According to the Spanish newspaper El Pais, the robbery was executed very professionally, quickly and quietly. The artworks were stolen while the owner was at work. Although the building is situated only few meters from the Senate in the heavily guarded area with little traffic and passersby, the thieves managed to avoid being caught. No one, including the keepers of the estate and neighbors haven't heard or seen anything during the robbery. Although the house has a security alarm, the robbers managed to disconnect it and walked freely through the house while looting the paintings and other valuables. According to El Pais, thieves left no fingerprints of loose ends that would lead to their arrest.

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Francis Bacon's and Alonso Cano’s Crucifixions

Spanish Police is Still Looking for the Artworks

The police suspected that the paintings may emerge at Arco, an acclaimed art fair held every February in Madrid. Considering that numerous buyers attend the event every year, police hoped that the robbers will make a misstep and secretly offer the artworks to visitors at this event. Since that didn't happen the police and experts in Spain suspect that the robbers are still in possession of the paintings since this type of spoil is not easy to sell. "The circle in which you can sell a work like this is very small. It is not easy to offer a Francis Bacon, large or small, without coming to the ears of the scouts in this special sector" said a Spanish art expert for El Pais.

Francis Bacon Stolen Spain
Handout photo released by Spanish National Police dept. on 28 May 2016 of one of five artworks by Irish painter Francis Bacon robbed last July from a home in Madrid, Spain. Photo by Spanish National Police HO/EFE

UPDATE: Seven Suspects Arrested by the Spanish Police

The Spanish police announced on May 28 they have made seven arrests related to the theft of five Francis Bacon paintings. The detectives in Spain were approached in February by British private investigators specializing in the recovery of stolen artworks who had received an email with photographs of the stolen works asking if they were listed as stolen, national police said in a statement. After analyzing the photograph, they were able to determine that the camera which was used to take the images was owned by a photographic equipment rental company which supplied details of the customer who had rented it at the time the paintings were photographed. The customer, who is suspected of involvement in the crime, was among those arrested, along with a Madrid art dealer and his son. However, the paintings and the safe containing coin collections and jewellery have yet to be found.

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Francis Bacon, Portrait, 1976

Art Thefts as Lucrative Business

Francis Bacon is one of the most acclaimed and most sought-after artists in the world. He is renowned worldwide for his raw emotionally-charged artworks and his pieces are known to reach record prices at auctions. Francis Bacon's tryptic Three Studies of Lucien Freud for instance, was sold in 2013 for $142,405,000 thus setting a world record for a painting at that time. The heist of Francis Bacon's artworks is only the last in series of heists in the art world. Recently, a trailer containing artworks by several contemporary masters was stolen in LA. Also, a series of Andy Warhol's prints disappeared from the Hollywood studio in the same city and two of his pieces were also stolen from a gallery in Nurnberg. On a brighter side, the authorities in Turkey recently discovered a stolen piece that's believed to be made by Picasso and numerous stolen artworks were seized in a large police operation in Italy as well.

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Editor's Tip: The Gardner Heist: The True Story of the World's Largest Unsolved Art Theft

Do you know which is the biggest art heist in the world? It happened on March 18, 1990, shortly after midnight, when two men broke into Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston and stole a dozen masterpieces, including one Vermeer, three Rembrandts, and five Degas. Considering that the artworks are worth as much as $500 million, the missing masterpieces have become one of the most extraordinary unsolved mysteries on the planet. Intrigued by the famous theft, reporter Ulrich Boser decided to investigate the case himself. He went deep into the criminal underworld and came across a remarkable cast of characters, including a brilliant rock'n'roll thief, a gangster who professes his innocence in rhyming verse, and he also met the late Boston heiress Isabella Stewart Gardner herself. The reporter's findings about the Gardner heist were gathered and presented in this book that's as compelling as the stolen masterpieces themselves, and makes a perfect reading for both art lovers and crime-tale fanatics.

Featured image : Three Studies of Lucien Freud by Francis Bacon at a Cristie's Auction ; Images for illustrative purposes only

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