- Special Pages
ROTTERDAM: Seven masterpieces, including paintings by Picasso, Matisse, Monet and Gauguin, were stolen in a pre-dawn heist yesterday at Rotterdam’s Kunsthal museum, the biggest such theft in the Netherlands in two decades.
Alerted by an alarm but arriving on the scene after the thief or thieves had fled, police said they had launched a major investigation that includes interviewing possible witnesses and examining closed-circuit television.
“On Tuesday morning seven artworks were stolen from the Kunsthal in Rotterdam,” police said in a statement, adding the burglary took place at around 3am (0100 GMT).
After having initially declined to name the stolen paintings, they said that after consulting with the owners, they can now release photographs of the works. “A major investigation is under way and forensics are at the scene,” Rotterdam police spokeswoman Patricia Wessels said. “We’re investigating how they got access, what time it happened and who did it.”
Dutch state television showed a police forensic team dusting one of the Kunsthal’s outer doors for fingerprints. The museum’s director is flying back from Turkey after hearing news of the theft, television said.
The NOS broadcaster said the haul was worth “millions and millions of euros”, but the paintings are so famous that it will be difficult to get anything like their real value on the black market. It is the biggest art theft in The Netherlands since 20 paintings were stolen from Amsterdam’s Van Gogh museum in 1991.
The paintings are Pablo Picasso’s “Tete d’Arlequin”, Henri Matisse’s “La Liseuse en Blanc et Jaune”, Claude Monet’s “Waterloo Bridge, London” and “Charing Cross Bridge, London”, Paul Gauguin’s “Femme Devant une Fenetre Ouverte, dite La Fiancee”, Meyer de Haan’s “Autoportrait” and Lucian Freud’s “Woman with Eyes Closed”.
“Police are interviewing possible witnesses and examining closed-circuit video footage,” the police statement said. “An initial investigation suggests that the robbery was well prepared.” The police spokeswoman said that police were alerted during the night when an alarm went off but the thief or thieves had made off by the time police arrived at the scene.
The museum is in Rotterdam’s museum park where few people go at night. The works were among the 150-strong Triton Foundation’s collection, which was being shown in its entirety to the public for the first time to mark the museum’s 20th anniversary, the Kunsthal’s website said.