The main entrance to the Museo di Castelvecchio in Verona (photo by Richard, enjoy my life!/Flickr)

The main entrance to the Museo di Castelvecchio in Verona (photo by Richard, enjoy my life!/Flickr)

In fair Verona, where we lay our scene, thieves have stolen 17 valuable artworks from a museum. Thursday night three masked men entered the Museo di Castelvecchio, tied up and gagged a security guard and a cashier, and stole artworks said to be worth a total of €15 million (~$16 million), including pieces by Peter Paul Rubens, Jacopo Tintoretto, Jacopo Bellini, and Giovanni Francesco Caroto, the AFP reported.

Pisanello’s “Madonna of the Quail” (ca. 1420) is one of the works stolen from the Museo di Castelvecchio. (via Wikimedia Commons) (click to enlarge)

The thieves struck as the museum closed, before its security system was activated. The three armed men wore all black. They acted quickly, seemingly knowing exactly which works they wanted and where to find them. They escaped in the security guard’s car after taking his keys from him.

The haul includes no fewer than five works by Tintoretto, Andrea Mantegna’s “The Holy Family with a Saint,” Peter Paul Rubens’s “The Lady of Licnidi,” Pisanello’s “Madonna of the Quail,” and two works by the Dutch landscape painter Hans de Jode, according to a list published by Corriere Della Sera. The museum’s director, Paola Marini, told the Telegraph that 11 of the 17 stolen works are considered masterpieces, while the other six are lesser pieces.

The thieves’ calculated timing and clear knowledge of the museum’s layout and the works’ whereabouts have led many to hypothesize that the heist was commissioned by a collector. Officers from the Carabinieri’s cultural heritage unit are now reviewing footage from the museum’s 48 security cameras taken during the theft and in the days preceding it on the assumption that the thieves visited in the lead-up to the heist.

Giovanni Francesco Caroto’s paintings “Portrait of a Young Benedictine” and “Portrait of a Child with a Drawing” (both ca. first half of the 16th century), both stolen from the Museo di Castelvecchio on Thursday. (via Wikimedia Commons and Wikimedia Commons) (click to enlarge)

“Someone told them exactly what to steal and given that they are very well-known paintings, I imagine they will end up in a private collection,” Verona Mayor Flavio Tosi told the Telegraph. “They were real professionals. They didn’t say a word to each other and they struck at exactly the right moment — after the museum had closed to the public but before the alarms had been activated. … It was very targeted and deliberate. They went from room to room, knowing what to take.”

The Museo di Castelvecchio is housed in a fortress of the same name that was built by Cangrande della Scala in 1354. A restoration between 1959 and 1973 by architect Carlo Scarpa modernized some of the galleries. In addition to medieval and Renaissance paintings, the museum’s collection includes prints, sculptures, coins and medals, and ancient armor and weapons.

Peter Paul Reubens’s “Dama delle Licnidi” (left) and Jacopo Tintoretto’s “Giudizio di Salomone” (right) were both stolen from the Museo di Castelvecchio (images via @unquadroalgiorno/Instagram and @unquadroalgiorno/Instagram) (click to enlarge)

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Benjamin Sutton

Benjamin Sutton is an art critic, journalist, and curator who lives in Park Slope, Brooklyn. His articles on public art, artist documentaries, the tedium of art fairs, James Franco's obsession with Cindy...