A Swiss Museum Has Lost Two Old Masters Paintings That It Sent for Cleaning

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Soldaten im Lager by the Flemish artist Robert van den Hocke. Kunsthaus Zurich

Swiss police are investigating the possible theft of two 17th-century paintings from the Kunsthaus Zurich, Switzerland’s largest museum.

 The Swiss Museum is looking for two paintings from its Old Master collection, the museum said in a statement on Tuesday, January 24, 2023.

As it turned out, since the beginning of the new year, no one has seen two paintings out of a total of seven hundred items in the museum sent for cleaning and restoration after the fire on August 2-3, 2022. Since at the moment all searches have been unsuccessful, now the museum management can no longer exclude the possibility of theft.

Therefore, on January 13, 2022, the museum filed a complaint with the police and asked law enforcement agencies to conduct an official investigation.

 We are talking about two small paintings: Soldaten im Lager by the Flemish artist Robert van den Hocke, dated to the middle of the 17th century, and Narzissen und andere Blumen in Glasvase auf einer Marmorplatte by the Dutch artist Dirk de Brey from 1673.

Narzissen und andere Blumen in Glasvase auf einer Marmorplatte, 1673

The missing works were registered with the Art Loss Register, or “Register of Lost Art”, the world’s largest database containing information on lost and stolen works of art.

In parallel, the Kunsthaus Museum continues its own investigation. Two small framed items were painted on oak and donated to the museum on a permanent basis. A spokesman for the Kunsthaus said van den Hoecke’s work is valued at “an average five-figure sum” and de Brey’s is “six-figure”.

Both paintings were among more than 700 works of art that the Kunsthaus Zurich restored last year after a fire broke out in the museum on the night of August 2.

“From generation to generation, collectors have trusted the Kunsthaus with their treasures,” said institution director Anne Demeister, noting that “nearly three-quarters” of the museum’s holdings came in the form of long-term loans or private gifts.

The Swiss Museum set up a crisis management team to help with the recovery, and the two missing paintings were listed on the Register of Lost Art, an international database of lost and stolen art.

“Our work does not end with the involvement of the police,” Demeester added. She said that “the Kunsthaus team is in close contact with all those affected” and that “we [will] keep our eyes and ears open if work is still in the house.”

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