Stolen Rembrandt found in church pastor’s office


LOS ANGELES — A Los Angeles County Sheriff’s official
confirmed Tuesday that deputies recovered a stolen Rembrandt from the
pastor’s office of an Episcopal church in the San Fernando Valley.

The Rembrandt sketch stolen Saturday night from the
Ritz-Carlton in Marina del Rey was recovered Monday night from Saint
Nicholas Episcopal Church in Encino, sheriff’s spokesman Steve Whitmore

Investigators were still trying to determine how it
found its way into the office of Father Mike Cooper and to verify
whether it is an authentic Rembrandt. Cooper referred questions to

The sketch, titled “The Judgment,” was recovered
after authorities received a tip Monday evening that someone had seen
the artwork on church property.

Deputies went to the property and recovered the
drawing, which was positively identified by its owners, the Linearis
Institute, Whitmore said.

No one has been arrested in connection with the
theft, he said. “We have the Rembrandt at the station evidence lockup.
… We are now seeking to authenticate it is a Rembrandt with other
sources,” he said.

Whitmore said detectives still plan to release a
sketch and images of a person involved in the “well-thought-out,
well-executed theft.”

The 11-inch-by-6-inch quill pen and ink work dating
to about 1655 was part of an exhibition staged by the Linearis
Institute. Officials at the institute have not returned telephone calls.

The institute is described on its website as “a
public repository for the visual arts specializing in works on paper by
great masters of the past 500 years.”

The artwork was stolen Saturday night when a curator told investigators he was distracted by a guest.

“When the curator turned back to the Rembrandt, it was gone,” Whitmore said.

Art experts said works by Rembrandt are some of the
most popular targets for art thieves, second only to those by Picasso,
because of the artist’s name recognition and the value of the pieces.

Anthony Amore, chief investigator at the Isabella
Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston and co-author of a book called
“Stealing Rembrandts,” said there have been 81 documented thefts of the
artist’s work in the past 100 years.

One of those took place at the Gardner museum, where
in 1990 a pair of thieves posing as police officers gained entry to the
museum and stole 13 works of art, including three Rembrandts. The crime
remains unsolved.

In the majority of cases, stolen Rembrandts have been
recovered, either when thieves were caught or returned the items,
sometimes in an attempt to claim reward money after they were unable to
sell them.

Thieves find famous artworks extremely difficult to
sell because of their high profiles and the publicity generated by such
thefts, he said.

“I’d be shocked if the person who stole this piece had any idea how to fence it,” Amore said.

There are about 700 surviving drawings that experts agree to be Rembrandt’s work, said Amore’s co-author, Tom Mashberg.


(c) 2011, Los Angeles Times.

Visit the Los Angeles Times on the Internet at

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.