Museum Stories

The Great Art Robbery… Foiled

Joanna Kaszubowska 23 October 2021 min Read

Recently I had the pleasure of reviewing the Rembrandt’s Light exhibition at the Dulwich Picture Gallery. Sadly, on Thursday, 14th November 2019, the gallery was closed due to a failed attempt at a great art robbery. Namely, an audacious break-in on Wednesday night, 13th November, targeting two paintings by Rembrandt from the exhibition at Dulwich Picture Gallery.

Scene

Imagine now the situation, because this, just like may other art burglary attempts is movie material. The relatively small Dulwich Picture Gallery, quite far from the city center, Wednesday night, around 11 pm, it is cold, humid, and dark outside. Someone breaks into the silent gallery and removes two selected paintings from the 35 Rembrandts hanging in the exhibition space. According to Detective Inspector Jason Barber from the Flying Squad: “This was an audacious attempted burglary and was clearly planned in advance.”

Action

Luckily for all of us, the planning was not impeccable. The burglar triggered the gallery’s security systems and at 11:30 p.m. the police were called. Officers arrived mere minutes later and, following a search of the area, challenged an intruder and one of them gave chase. Then the intruder sprayed the officer in the face with an unknown substance, managing to get away. Thankfully the police officer was not seriously injured and swiftly located one of the paintings. Police and security staff found the second painting shortly thereafter. Both paintings never left the gallery and are now safe.

Cut

As always in such cases, the question is not so much “why?,” we can all safely assume it was for the money. But who? (Which we may find out in due course.) And who was the buyer? (Which will probably remain a mystery, if the previous experience is to guide us.)

Credits

At this time the gallery has not disclosed which paintings were targeted and remains closed for investigation. Below, you can find a selection of the paintings by Rembrandt that were displayed on the Dulwich Picture Gallery exhibition.

Rembrandt van Rijn, The Denial of St. Peter, 1660, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, Netherlands. Photo by the author.

Dulwich Picture Gallery
Rembrandt van Rijn, Landscape with the Rest on the Flight into Egypt, 1647, National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin, Ireland. Photo by the author.

Rembrandt, Philemon and Baucis 1658, National Gallery of Art, Washington, phot. Joanna Kaszubowska - Dulwich Picture Gallery
Rembrandt van Rijn, Philemon and Baucis, 1658, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, USA. Photo by the author.

Rembrandt's Light - Dulwich Picture Gallery
Rembrandt van Rijn, Self-Portrait in a Flat Cap, 1642, The Royal Collection, London, UK. Photo by the author.

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