Showing posts with label venice. Show all posts
Showing posts with label venice. Show all posts

January 6, 2018

Diamonds are a thief's best friend: The stolen objects from Doge's Palace identified

The jewelry stolen during the Doge's Palace (Italian: Palazzo Ducale) robbery this week were modern compositions created by one of the foremost contemporary jewelry designers in the world.  Considered by some to be the world’s greatest living jeweller, the objects were created by the spectacularly gifted, Mumbai-based, artisan Viren Bhagat whose work has been characterised as a contemporary synthesis of traditional Mughal motifs and 1920s Cartier Art Deco.  

Bhagat comes from an artisan family who has been in the Indian jewelry business for more than one hundred years. He is one of only two contemporary jewelers, the second being Joel Arthur Rosenthal (JAR), whose works are included in Sheikh Hamad bin Abdullah Al-Thani's extravagant collection of  more than 400 pieces of Indian jewelry and jeweled artifacts spanning four centuries. 

Bhagat produces only a small number of breathtaking pieces each year using only precious stones to stay true to the aesthetic of historic Indian jewelry.  Each of his designs are first pencil-sketched, then precisely produced.  All of his jewelry pieces are one of a kind originals and none of his jewelry is created on commission. 

What makes Bhagat popular with wealthy jewelry lovers worldwide (some 60 percent of his work is purchased outside of India) is his recognizably stylistic touches of western elegance in symmetry with eastern extravagance, making his pieces perfect for modern day maharajas.  

Given his recognition in the jewelry world some of his pieces reach well into seven figures. 

The pair of earrings stolen earlier this week from the Doge's Palace, pictured above, started with a simple, clear halo of asymmetrical flat-cut diamonds surrounding an eye-popping 30.2-carat nearly-colorless teardrop shape diamond mounted on a barely-there platinum setting.  

The stolen brooch-pendant features a 10.03-carat center diamond mined from the historic Golconda sultanate, surrounded by a double row of calibrated rubies and flat-cut diamond petals, the combination form the image of a Mogul lotus.  Below the centerpiece hangs a thirteen strand, proportioned tassel of diamond and ruby beads, a type of flourish occasionally found in Indian turban jewels. 

Described in the book Beyond Extravagance: A Royal Collection of Gems and Jewels, edited by Amin Jaffer, the former international director of Asian art at Christie’s, and current curator of the Al-Thani collection, the back of the brooch is said to be covered in pavé diamonds, echoing the extravagant Indian tradition of decorating the reverse side of jewelry as well as the front. Not your everyday Bollywood bling. 

NOTE:  The SCO - the Central Operations Service of the Police (Italian: Servizio Centrale Operativo) and the Scientific Police (Italian: Polizia Scientifica) will be assisting the investigators of the local Mobile Squad on this investigation. 

January 5, 2018

15 seconds to open, plus 5 seconds to pocket

That's how long it took a thief, in full view of CCTV security cameras, to open a glass display case while an accomplice stood lookout.

You can see the CCTV footage released by the authorities below.

In the CCTV camera footage a clean-shaven man wearing a hooded puffer jacket and casual pants, sporting a traditional coppola style flat cap, can be seen viewing the jewels in several display cases at a leisurely pace, along with five other individuals.  Nearby, one of the five, his accomplice, wearing a buttoned sweater and a fisherman's beanie also pretends to be enjoying the exhibition. 

Four of the individuals, two with hats and two without, leave the space viewable by the security camera in one group after only giving passing glances to the objects on display in the exhibition room.  The man with the fisherman's beanie remains, feigning interest in the objects on display before he too moves out of view of the camera's range, standing as a lookout.  

In the next frame of images, after purposely walking towards the middle display, we can see the thief warily working the lock mechanism on the alarmed display case, possibly with some type of burglary tool, though the view of how he unlocks its glass door is blocked by his back, out of view of the camera.  Opening the case takes only 15 seconds.

Glancing back over his shoulder before and after he gains access to the interior of the case, the culprit then reaches in and deftly grabs the brooch and earrings, placing them quickly in his right pocket in just five seconds.  He then closes the glass door on the case and exits in the same direction as the four earlier individuals. 

It is not very clear whether or not the four other individuals pictured in the CCTV  footage had any role in the event.  Nor is it unusual for patrons to wear hats in Italian museums during bouts of colder weather.  What is clear, though, is that hats used as disguises can be quickly removed and hooded puffer jackets can be flipped up or discarded with ease, allowing the thief and his accomplice to rapidly change their appearance, making them less identifiable.

This change-up can be seen in the footage stills taken of the two suspects.

In the top image, the lookout has donned a red puffer jacket which now covers or has replaced his earlier buttoned sweater.  

As the pair depart, the lookout exits with his hands stuffed in his pockets while the man who removed the objects from the case inside the Doge's Palace now has his hands free and appears to be talking on his cell phone. 

January 3, 2018

Museum Theft: Doge’s Palace - Venice, Italy

Shortly after 10 am this morning, on the last day of an exhibition at the Doge’s Palace (Italian: Palazzo Ducale), once the heart of the political life and public administration at the time of the Venetian Republic, jewel thieves broke into a display case and absconded with pieces of jewelry on temporary display in Venice.

Promoted by Fondazione Musei Civici di Venezia, the exhibition was curated by Amin Jaffer, Senior Curator of the private collection, and Gian Carlo Calza, a distinguished Italian scholar of East Asian art.  The exhibition, titled "Treasures of the Mughals and Maharaja" brought together 270+ pieces of Indian jewelry, covering four centuries of India's heritage, owned by Sheikh Hamad bin Abdullah Al-Thani, CEO of Qatar Investment & Projects Development Holding Company (QIPCO), the Qatari mega-holding company.  

Sheikh Al-Thani is the first cousin of Qatar's Emir, and began acquiring pieces for his now-extensive jewelry collection after visiting an exhibition of Indian art in 2009 at London's Victoria and Albert Museum.

Some of the bejeweled pieces on display at the Doge's Palace included encrusted jewelry with diamonds, rubies, jade, pearls and emeralds, once owned by India's great maharajas, nizams and emperors.  Founded by Babur after his conquest of much of Northern India, the pieces from the Mughal dynasty date from the early 16th century to the mid 18th century, one of India's most opulent eras in jewelry composition.  

Additional pieces from the collection were created during the politically chaotic 18th century and from the British Raj period in the 19th century and were produced to appeal to wealthy British travelers and India's upper caste.  The collector's more extravagant contemporary objects on display include a necklace commissioned in 1937 by Maharaja Digvijaysinhji of Nawanagar and made by Jacques Cartier, which is said to rival the ruby and diamond necklace of Empress Marie-Louise which is part of the Crown Jewels of France.

The Al-Thani collection brings together and regroups pieces from many former Indian treasuries, some of which emphasize beliefs of the period.

In India, the nine stones of the Navaratna (Sanskrit: नवरत्न) where nava stands for nine and ratna for jewel, are considered to be auspicious, and in Vedic texts and Indian Astrology were believed to have the power to protect the wearer.

These jewels are:

Blue sapphire (niilam)
Cat's Eye (vaidooryam)
Diamond (vajram)
Emerald (marathakam)
Hessonite (gomeda)
Pearl (muktaaphalam)
Red Coral (vidrumam)
Ruby (maanikyam)
Yellow sapphire (pushparajam)

Often the gems were set in pure gold, using a gemstone setting art form known as Kundan, a method of gem setting, that consist of inserting a gold foil between the stones which does not require soldering or claw mounts. 

Former V&A curator Dr. Amin Jaffer is said to have begun advising Sheik Hamad on his acquisitions, after becoming the international director of Asian art at Christie’s.  In 2017, after ten years with the auction house, Jaffer resigned to take the position of Chief Curator of the Al-Thani's collection.

Ripped from the pages of an Oceans 8 Hollywood Script

According to current reconstruction of the incident using cameras surveillance footage, two thieves, one serving as lookout and a second culprit who actively broke into a display case located in the Sala dello Scrutinio, quickly made off with one brooch and  a pair of earrings. As soon as the display case was breachedsounding an alarm, the pair deftly escaped through the crowded museum gallery, blending in among the patrons and were out of the museum before security could seal the museum's perimeter to apprehend them.

Exhibition Hall, Sala dello Scrutinio, Doge's Palace, Venice
Image Credit: Palazzo Ducale
Immediately after the theft, the Sala dello Scrutinio was closed pending a complete inventory and review of surveillance footage.   

At the present time, photographs of the pieces stolen during the robbery have not been released by the authorities or by Al-Thani. In a statement given by the Venice city police commissioner Vito Gagliardi, the stolen jewelry included diamonds, gold and platinum, had been assigned a customs value of just 30,000 euros ($36,084), but are likely worth “a few million euros.”  

Selling hot goods

While diamonds may be a girl's best friend, buying stolen gemstones is a serious crime.  Without a certificate of authenticity which proves a diamond adheres to the KCPS, or Kimberly Process Certification Scheme showing that the gem does not originate from a "blood zone" tainted by human rights abuses, finding a buyer who will purchase an unprovenanced jewel of skeptical origin can be difficult.

Individuals caught trading in stolen or "blood diamonds" face significant legal ramifications and buying unprovenanced jewels poses great economic risk for jewelers, pawn shops, diamond and gem traders and cutters, and anyone else who might come into contact with a newly stolen and possibly well documented stolen gemstone.

Even if the Venice gem thieves were able to successful sell their newly stolen loot, they will likely do so with only a modicum of success. While big-time professional jewel thieves may have black market connections that allow them to sell substantial pieces for hefty sums, most implus thieves have to settle for intermediary fences which pay nowhere near what the gems in the necklace may actually be worth, financially or historically.

By:  Lynda Albertson

December 28, 2013

Fabio Isman reports on scholar Augusto Gentili's identification of sitter of portrait "Young Knight in Landscape" at the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza

Carpaccio's 1515 "Young Knight in a
 Landscape", Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza
Investigative journalist Fabio Isman's article "Scoperto chi è il “Cavaliere Thyssen” di Carpaccio" discusses the work of scholar Augusto Gentili who has identified the mystery man in Vittorio Carpaccio's painting "Young Knight in a Landscape" (1515) at the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza in Madrid. Gentili, a lecturer at Ca'Foscari di Venezia until his retirement, has identified the painting as a portrait of the Venetian captain Marco Gabriel decapitated by the Turks in 1501 during wartime.

Here Mar Borobia for the museum describes the difficulty in identifying painting as either a fictional knight or a portrait which would be "the first known example in which the sitter is depicted full-length":
It has been suggested that this new format can be explained if this image were a posthumous portrait of a soldier, in which case the figure would be similar to funerary images of a comparable type and date. The landscape around this enigmatic young man is as mysterious and troubling as he is, combining as it does flowers and animals that refer both to good and evil, purity and corruption.
Isman reports that Professor Gentili linked the portrait to Marco Gabriel and to Venice's Hotel Gabrielli. The English translation of Gentili's analysis will be published in The Burlington Magazine.

May 28, 2013

Dan Brown's fictional Robert Langdon uses the "ARCA Web site" in "Inferno" to research the Horses of St. Mark's in Venice

The Horses of St. Mark's (The Triamphal Quadriga)
by Catherine Schofield Sezgin,
ARCA Blog Editor-in-Chief

In Chapter 17 of Dan Brown's Inferno published May 14 by Doubleday, (and reviewed by Janet Maslin in The New York Times), the fourth book featuring Robert Langdon, the fictional Harvard University professor of religious iconography and symbology, researches the Horses of St. Mark's: 

As it turned out, the powerful bodies of the early Friesian horses had inspired the robust aesthetic of the Horses of St. Mark’s in Venice. According to the Web site, the Horses of St. Mark’s were so beautiful that they had become “history’s most frequently stolen pieces of art.”

Langdon had always believed that this dubious honor belonged to the Ghent Altarpiece and paid a quick visit to the ARCA Web site to confirm his theory. The Association for Research into Crimes Against Art offered no definitive ranking, but they did offer a concise history of the sculptures’ troubled life as a target of pillage and plunder.

This appears to be a reference to the blog post(s) by Judge ArthurTompkins, an ARCA Lecturer, written in June of 2011: The Four Horses of the Basilica San Marco, Venice (Part I); More on the History (Part II); Continued Short History (Part III); and The Four Horses Rest Inside St. Mark's Basilica in Venice After Being Plundered from Constantinople in the 13th Century (Part IV). On the ARCA blog is another post about the "The Triamphal Quadriga" in Paris Diary: Replica of Stolen Art at Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel.

Then Brown is a bit more definitive about what academics would question:

The four copper horses had been cast in the fourth century by an unknown Greek sculptor on the island of Chios, where they remained until Theodosius II whisked them off to Constantinople for display at the Hippodrome. Then, using the Fourth Crusade, when Venetian forces sacked Constantinople, the ruling doge demanded the four precious statues be transported via ship all the way back to Venice, a nearly impossible feat because of their size and weight. The horses arrived in Venice in 1254, and were installed in front of the façade of St. Mark’s Cathedral.

More than half a millennium later, in 1797, Napoleon conquered Venice and took the horses for himself. They were transported to Paris and prominently displayed atop the Arc de Triomphe. Finally, in 1815, following Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo and his exile, the horses were winched down from the Arc de Triomphe and shipped on a barge back to Venice, where they were reinstalled on the front balcony of St. Mark’s Basilica.

Although Langdon had been fairly familiar with the history of the horses, the ARCA site contained a passage that startled him.

The decorative collars were added to the horses’ necks in 1204 by the Venetians to conceal where the heads had been severed to facilitated their transportation by ship from Constantinople to Venice.

August 7, 2009

Charity Lecture in Support of Venice in Peril

Exclusive Art Crime Lecture in aid of Venice in Peril
Noah Charney
"Stealing the Mystic Lamb: the true story of the world’s most frequently stolen masterpiece"
Vernon Rapley
"The Art of Deception: the criminal use of fake and forged art, antiques and antiquities"

We are delighted to announce that author and international art crime expert, Noah Charney, will give the Venice in Peril Autumn Lecture to be held at The Royal Geographical Society on Thursday 1 October 2009, at 7pm. Entitled "Stealing the Mystic Lamb: the true story of the world’s most frequently stolen masterpiece", Noah will give an exclusive and original insight into Van Eyck’s Ghent Altarpiece, a work that has been involved in 13 crimes over its 600 year existence. An original speaker who returns for Venice in Peril due to a sell-out talk last year, Noah will be joined by Detective Sergeant Vernon Rapley. With a police career spanning 23 years, DS Rapley is head of London’s Metropolitan Police Art and Antiques Unit, a unit dedicated to policing the world’s second largest art market and which recovers, on average, £7million of stolen and laundered art each year.

Thursday 1st October 2009 at 7pm
Doors open at 6pm with public bar and garden
The Royal Geographical Society
1 Kensington Gore, London SW7
To book tickets please either:
Call the Venice in Peril office on 020 7736 6891 or
Email us at