The 1911 theft of the Mona Lisa, stolen from the Louvre by employee Vincenzo Peruggia, is perhaps the most famous case of art theft. Yet, art crimes have littered modern history, involving many renown artwoks. On 6 February 1975 a group of thieves, using builder’s scaffolding erected for repair work, broke into the Ducal Palace in Urbino, cut the frames and stole the paintings La Muta by Raphael, The Flagellation of Christ and The Madonna di Senigallia by Piero della Francesca. The painting were recovered, unharmed, in Locarno, Switzerland, a year later. The crime was carried out by local criminals who hoped to sell the work on the international market.
Unfortunately, many stolen works have never been recovered. Among them, another painting by Raphael, the Portrait of a young Man. The work was last seen in the Krakow apartment of Hans Frank, the Nazi governor of Poland during World War II. When Frank was arrested for war crimes in 1945, the painting was missing and its current location is still unknown.
Further reading: Anthony M. Amore, The art of the Con: The Most Notorious Fakes, Frauds, and Forgeries in the Art World, 2016; Lynn H. Nicholas, The Rape of Europa: The Fate of Europe’s Treasures in the Third Reich and the Second World War, 1995.
Piero della Francesca, Flagellation of Christ, 1455-60, oil on panel, Galleria Nazionale delle Marche, Urbino.
Piero della Francesca, Madonna di Senigallia, c. 1474, oil on panel, Galleria Nazionale delle Marche, Urbino.
Raphael, La Muta, 1507-08, oil on wood, Galleria Nazionale delle Marche, Urbino.
Raphael, Portrait of a Young Man, 1513-14, oil on wood, Galleria Nazionale delle Marche, Urbino.