Romanian Thieves May Have Burned Seven Masterpieces As Police Closed In

130717-romanian-museum-hmed1-330p.380220px-Large_bonfireThere is an interesting forensic challenge in a Romanian criminal case as well as an unspeakable destruction of art by a band of thieves.  Police have found a furnace with ashes containing paint, nails, and canvas that a mother says is the remains of seven multimillion-dollar paintings — including a Matisse, a Picasso and a Monet. She says that the paintings were destroyed as police started asking questions about the gang of thieves from a museum, including her son.


Olga Dogaru says that the ashes are all that is left of the paintings from a Dutch museum that was the victim of a daring daylight raid of art thieves. Museum forensic specialists found residue of painting primer, canvas, paint” as well as copper and steel nails pre-dating the 20th century.

However, it will be hard to prove that these were indeed the same paintings or that all of them were burned. The thieves clearly had a tough time selling such famous works. Yet, would they simply burn the masterpieces? They could have burned just one and hidden the rest.

The forensic challenge is daunting. There could be matches to material from the period or unique paint deduced from the furnace. However, it seems unlikely that all of the paintings would be confirmed.

paint_2619548bIf true, the thieves put the match to Pablo Picasso’s 1971 “Harlequin Head”; Claude Monet’s 1901 “Waterloo Bridge, London” (right) and “Charing Cross Bridge, London”; Henri Matisse’s 1919 “Reading Girl in White and Yellow”; Paul Gauguin’s 1898 “Girl in Front of Open Window”; Meyer de Haan’s “Self-Portrait” of around 1890; and Lucian Freud’s 2002 work “Woman with Eyes Closed.” It would be an unspeakable crime against the world’s cultural heritage. The mother herself said that she torched the paintings which should guarantee her a jail sentence.

What do you think is that appropriate sentence? Should this be treated on the same sentencing level as murder for a life sentence? This was not just property destruction but the loss of some of the greatest pieces of art in the world. Of course, the problem comes with using the value of the painting to drive the sentence since it would suggest that the same crime involving lesser artists might generate a lower sentence.

What do you think?

Source: Guardian

16 thoughts on “Romanian Thieves May Have Burned Seven Masterpieces As Police Closed In

  1. Mr. Turley, I’m assuming your love of art caused you to ask about the equivalency to Murder 1. But, if not, NO it’s not a Murder 1 case, not even close.

  2. Why when we have scripture that people ignore it? King James Bible (Cambridge Ed.) Romans 12:19:
    Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.

    What value is there in human punishment? What has punishment prevented? Would you say that punishment results in people burning valuable works of art? Would therefore the lack of human punishment teach people that the wrath of man is evil? The wrath of man burned those paintings. James:1 20 – 21, for the wrath of man worketh not the rightiouness of God. Whearfor lay apart all filthyness ,and superfluidy of naugtyness.
    The wrath of one teaches the other that wrath is good. That results are seen.

  3. I love art as well, but I have to agree with nick, Prof.

    False equivalence.

    I do, however, think they should face a prison term that guarantees they are far too old to commit such a crime again upon release.

  4. I don’t know what the penalty could be under Romanian Law but there is an applicable statute under US Federal Law.

    Title 18 USC 668 – Theft of Major Artwork

    The law would be applicable had this been done in the US, as this woman is being accused of disposing and/or receiving major artwork stolen from a museum. It features a penalty of up to 10 years for each “object.”

    I am not very familiar with federal criminal procedure, but I imagine it could be possible for multiple counts and consecutive sentences.

    I would also agree the value between different artists and their individual works can be used as everything else has a value and that value is often used in determining penalty.

  5. What do you think?

    It is close to a crime against humanity … but probably there should be a category “crime against civilization.”

  6. Not to divert the conversation at all, but the point of this post, and the comments recall to mind the Taliban and the destruction of the Buddha’s.
    Not sure what that means, but if we are to have a ‘crime against civilization’ it seems this would be another example for the charge.

    Then, to follow the point, what else would qualify at this level? Not just art, and not the murdering of humans – that is covered in genocide crimes.

    And… to advance the point one more square…given any examples that might be advanced, what is the underlying principle, or “law” that is being appealed to that would raise an event to this level?

    Just a few thoughts that occurred from this post and the comments.
    I think the answers, and further deliberations are more than simple opinions, but also serve as reflection about our underlying values.

  7. Michael Beaton 1, July 18, 2013 at 1:31 pm

    Not to divert the conversation at all, but the point of this post, and the comments recall to mind the Taliban and the destruction of the Buddha’s.
    Not sure what that means, but if we are to have a ‘crime against civilization’ it seems this would be another example for the charge.

    Then, to follow the point, what else would qualify at this level? Not just art, and not the murdering of humans – that is covered in genocide crimes.

    And… to advance the point one more square…given any examples that might be advanced, what is the underlying principle, or “law” that is being appealed to that would raise an event to this level?

    Just a few thoughts that occurred from this post and the comments.
    I think the answers, and further deliberations are more than simple opinions, but also serve as reflection about our underlying values.
    =========================
    The criminal laws against theft do in general have degrees.

    Steal $10 or something worth $10 and you get a certain criminal charge and punishment.

    The degrees in general, e.g. infraction (fine only), misdemeanor (up to 1 yr in jail), or felongy (big time), are attempts to meet the badness of the crime with severity of punishment.

    This crime JT talks about today is a crime against civilization itself, not just against a corporation, bank, or individual.

    Your mention of the Taliban and their destruction of works of art that are part of the history of civilization is another example.

  8. @Dredd ;
    The degrees in general, e.g. infraction (fine only), misdemeanor (up to 1 yr in jail), or felongy (big time), are attempts to meet the badness of the crime with severity of punishment.

    This crime JT talks about today is a crime against civilization itself, not just against a corporation, bank, or individual.

    Yes, that was/is my question. What is the appropriate punishment for a crime denominated as “crime against civilization”.
    And then to question the predicates further; by what ideas, principles, axioms does an event/action get so classified?

    I like the notion. It appeals to me somehow. And I wonder if it is simply an extension of “enlightenment” age thinking. LIke our constitution is/was. Or is it some deeper appeal.

    One thing that seems essentially true, however it is articulated in principle, it will have to be unconstrained by religious and dogmatic reasoning’s.
    To the degree that is true how would we properly judge an act like what the Taliban did given that the entire justification for it was religious?

    To me it is appropriate to assert ongoing issues that are being discussed in other posts as also worthy of this class of “crime”. What is the drift and drive to “Animal Farm” level governance and the instantiation of plutocracy/authoritarian institutions in the place of our once vaunted republican/democratic institutions?
    Is not this also a crime against civilization? I think so.

    Michael

  9. Oh my… Well I hear the city of Detroit will have numerous painting for sale soon…. Not that these masterpieces can ever be replaced…..

  10. I’m with Dredd : “This crime JT talks about today is a crime against civilization itself, not just against a corporation, bank, or individual.”

    There’s law and then there’s justice. Just say’n.

    lex talionis, principle developed in early Babylonian law and present in both biblical and early Roman law that criminals should receive as punishment precisely those injuries and damages they had inflicted upon their victims. Many early societies applied this “eye-for-an-eye” principle literally.

    http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/581485/talion

  11. Good gravy, LK.

    I hadn’t thought of lex talionis since taking “The History Roman and Germanic Law” in college. Really interesting course. The prof looked and sounded so much like actor Strother Martin he could have been his brother. And the horrible things that happened to Publius’ poor slave boy in the examples he gave! So frightening they were funny.

  12. Gene: “The prof looked and sounded so much like actor Strother Martin”
    —-

    I’m thinking that course got really scary in no small part because of that resemblance- Mr. Martin could be quite the bad-guy!

    Now I’m going to have to look up references to Publius’ slave boy, from your statement I just thank dog I’ve finished dinner. :-)

  13. He was more like Strother in his more comedic roles. He confined his mean to inflicting horrible fates on Publius’ slave boy . . . and one particular guy who always came to class late and really really high. :D

  14. Oh right, the lamprey guy! I remember reading about that in connection to the spread of glass as a new and wonderful consumer good. I also recall reading that he would throw slaves and miscreants into his lamprey pool just for the fun of it but that may have been a libel reported as history. But yeah, drunken Roman parties are all fun and games until someone gets thrown into the lamprey pool….

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