A work of art is a treasure that must be carefully conserved for the benefit and knowledge of future generations. We all know that. However stolen masterpieces are reported every year. Some of them are recovered by the effort of the authorities, who do not give up searching no matter what. However, some of these wonders are never found. Sadly, we are forced to look at copies and images and wonder what could have happened to the original. Here is a list of 10 art masterpieces that were stolen and never found.
1. The Disappearance of the Amber Room
Andreas Schlüter(baroque sculptor) and Gottfried Wolfram (amber craftsman)were the great artists who created this impressive work of art, from 1701 to 1709. Except for the amber,which is valuable in itself, the room also contained many other treasures, including paintings and gold. The Amber Room was offered to the great tzar Peter the Great by the king Wilhelm I, as a proof of friendship and peace in 1716. Later, during the World War II, Hitler became interested, or rather obsessed, with this work of art. Eventually, he sent a team of specialized men, together with two experts to disassemble the room and transport it to Germany. While many claim to know what happened to the Amber Room further on, the truth is that it was never seen again.
2. “The Concert “by Vermeer
This beautiful painting belongs to the Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer who created it in 1664. Isabella Stewart Gardner bought this masterpiece in an auction as far as 1892 and exposed in the museum which bears her name few years later. Unfortunately, “The concert” was among the 16 paintings that were stolen in 1990 by some unknown individuals who acted disguised as policemen. The painting was never recovered and it is now rated at an overwhelming $ 200 million, higher than any other stolen painting today.
3. Armed Robbery at the Museu Chacara do Céu Hiest
The theft from the Museu Chacara do Céu Hiest in Rio de Janeiro occurred during the Carnival Parade and the crowds might have hidden the criminals. Apparently, several armed men entered the museum and threatened everyone with guns and a grenade. After taking what they came for, the burglars vanished and were never found again. The stolen paintings belong to Pablo Picasso (The Dance), Claude Monet (Marine) Henri Matisse (Thee Garden of Luxembourg) and Salvador Dali(The T)wo Balconies) and are estimated at $50 million.
4. The Storm on the Sea of Galilee by Rembrandt
This is another one of the 16 paintings which were stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, in Boston, in 1990.This wonderful painting is unique in the entire portfolio of the Dutch master, as it is the only seascape he ever created. Moreover, it is believed that Rembrandt painted himself among the men in the boat ,as instead of the13 Biblical characters who were supposed to appear in the canvas (Jesus and the disciples) there are 14 !
5. “Painter on the Road to Tarascon” by van Gogh
“The Painter on the Road to Tarascon” was an amazingly meaningful self-portrait of Van Gogh himself. An avant-garde work of art, at that time, Van Gogh’s painting did not match the Nazis’ criteria on what a good painting should be and hence, it was considered ‘degenerate”. In an effort to cleanse the museums from these “degenerate” works of art, Hitler invited the public to see them again, one more time, before being destroyed. They overloaded a small house with the astonishingly beautiful paintings of so-called “impure” artists. Apparently, this is where “Painter on the Road to Tarascon” was in the moment when the Allied Forces started bombing Madgedung. Although not even a single clue concerning the painting could be found after the war, there are people who cannot believe it was destroyed by fire and continue to look for it.
6. “The Boy in the Red Vest” by Cezanne
Paul Cezanne painted “the boy in the red vest” in 1894, or 1895. This beautiful painting highly reveals the painter’s unique style, while featuring a model who was used several times in Cezanne’s work. Also, the interior is familiar for the lovers of Cezanne’s paintings as it appears numerous times as a background in his wife’s portraits. This is yet another treasure of the humanity that was lost following a theft from the Foundation E. G.Bührle, which is located in Switzerland.
7. “Portrait of a Young Man” by Raphael
This is a priceless masterpiece that was lost during the World War II. Before the war, “The Portrait of a young man” (1514) was sheltered in the Czartoryski Museum, in Krakow (Poland). In 1939, this work, as well as several others from the same woke up Hitler’s interest and were confiscated. However, the Governor of Poland tried all the tricks he knew in order to keep the painting within the borders. Not because of his sense of duty but because Frank wanted “The Portrait of a Young Boy” for himself. Eventually, he tried to escape to Switzerland and was caught before he could do it. He did not have the painting with him, claiming he had give it to Palisieux (Polish art protector), but the latter also denied responsibility. Despite the many years which have past and despite the official investigation, Raphael’s painting remains hidden.
8. “The Just Judges” by Jan and Hubert Van Eyck
The beautiful “Adoration of the Mystic Lamb” is a complex, impressive panel painting in Saint Bravo Cathedral, Belgium, created by the van Eyck brothers (Jan and Hubert) in 1432. Parts of it were repeatedly stolen and recovered, damaged or hidden by enemies of different kinds. They were finally put together, and back in their place, at the Saint Bravo in 1920. However, this was not destined to be a happy ending. The rich history of this historical masterpiece culminates with the theft of two of the panels, namely the “Just Judges”(above) and the St. John the Baptist” panels, in1934. While the St. John the Baptist” was returned 12 years later, “The Just Judges” is missing even now, 77 year later.
9. “Naivity with St Lawrence and St Francis” / “The Adoration” by Caravaggio
This is one of the most mysterious cases of stolen masterpieces. “The Adoration of the Shepherds with Saints” was painted by Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio in 1609, only one year before his death, which makes it even more precious. In 1969, this large painting, measuring 268cmX192 cm was stolen from The Oratory of San Lorenzo, in Sicily. It was believed that the Italian Mafia had stolen the masterpiece for an unknown private collector. However, nobody could find any piece of information regarding “the adoration” until 2009, when a police informer told them that the painting was eaten by pigs and rats in a farm and what was left of it was burnt to ashes. What a tragic ending for such a unique creation in the history of arts! However, FBI did not give up and continues to investigate the theft of the painting which is valued at an impressive $ 20 million.
10. Portrait of Dr. Gachet by Van Gogh
“The Portrait of Doctor Gachet” is one of the stolen masterpieces with a rich history. Van Gogh created 2 different versions of this painting, featuring Dr. Gachet who took care of him during his final months of life. The original version of this portrait is the “star” of our story. One of the many paintings which were considerate “degenerate” by Hitler, “The Portrait of Dr. Gachet” was stolen from the Städel Gallery, in Frankfurt, and illicitly sold in an auction by a Nazi leader. After changing the owner several times, it was purchased by Ryoei Saito in 1990, for $82, million, the highest price ever paid for a painting up to that moment. After the death of the owner, who had threatened to burn it, no one knows what happened to the precious work of art. However, official reports suggest that Saito did not fulfill his plan and that he might have sold it again.