1972 Art Theft in France

In 1972, an unknown thief (or thieves) looted the town hall at Bagnols sur Ceze, France, and removed several impressionist paintings valued conservatively in the millions of U.S. dollars. No trace of the stolen paintings has been found since their disappearance in 1972, and no suspects have been named in the case. Bagnols-sur-Cèze was quite certainly a Roman town (the name of the town comes from the Latin balnearius meaning baths) before the main part was built in the 13th century around a central arcaded square that is still preserved today.The old center of Bagnols-sur-Cèze retains its historic feel, with small streets and largely preservered architecture. Several facades are remarkable. The towns contains a notable museum of contemporary art, the Musée Albert-André.

In 1868, Léon Alègre, a humanist from Bagnols, established an "encyclopedic" museum in eight rooms of the third floor of the town hall. It juxtaposed paintings with stuffed animals and fossils, steam machines with ancient artefacts. In 1917, the painter Albert André became curator. At his instigation and thanks to the generosity of his painter friends, Renoir, Monet, Signac, Marquet, Bonnard, Jean Puy, as well as Rouart, Vollard, Durand-Ruel, Elie Faure, and Paul Clémenceau, the museum took on a more defined character and began to concentrate on figurative, modern, and contemporary painting.

In 1971, the donation of George and Adèle Besson completed the remarkable collection of Impressionist and post-Impressionist paintings that had been assembled by Albert André. The works of Matisse, Bonnard, Van Dongen, Berthe Morisot, Maillol, Picasso, and Camille Claudel are the highlights of a collection lovingly put together by a critic and enlightened art lover.

Unfortunately on November 12, 1972 an incident happens when nine impressionist paintings were stolen and never recovered. The stolen works included :

Pierre Bonnard’s : Le Petit Café
(1900, Oil on wood, 43 X35 cm)

Eugene Boudin’s : Cows in a Pasture
(Oil on wood, 22X16 cm)

Raoul Dufy’s : Composition
(Oil on wood, 50X25 cm) and

Orchestre avec nu
(Oil on wood, 42,5X20 cm)

Albert Marquet’s : View of the Port of Marseille
(1918, Oil on canvas, 46X38 cm)

Henri Matisse’s : View of Saint Tropez
(1904, oil on cardboard, 48X35 cm)

Pierre Renoir’s : Roses in a Vase
(1905, Oil on canvas, 31X38 cm) and

Portrait of Madame Albert Andre
(1904, Oil on canvas, 28X31 cm)

Édouard Vuillard’s : Pot de Honfleur
(1919, Oil on cardboard, 32X36 cm)

The statute of limitations for criminal prosecution has expired, but French authorities continue to remind the public that the paintings are considered stolen property, and that possession or exchange of stolen items is a separate criminal offense. Police presume that the paintings were purchased by one or more rogue collectors who cherish such items as personal treasures, without a need to display them publicly.

Sources :
Encyclopedia of Unsolved Crimes by Michael Newton;
http://www.saztv.com/page18.html; http://www.gard-provencal.com/an/museums/aandre.htm

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