There 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.
If 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?