Brazen thief steals 19th Century painting from Russian museum in front of stunned tourists by taking it off the wall and calmly walking away with it
- The painting was stolen from famous art museum Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow
- Police have detained a man, 31, in a village outside Moscow, for questioning
- Russian artist Arkhip Kuinzhi completed the artwork between 1898 and 1908
- In May last year, a visitor seriously damaged another painting at the art gallery
This is the moment a brazen thief steals a famous painting in front of staff and tourists at Russia’s top art gallery in broad daylight yesterday.
Police have arrested a man they believe stole the artwork, ‘Ai-Petri. Crimea’, painted by a famous 19th century artist.
State television aired footage of a man calmly taking a work by Russian landscape painter Arkhip Kuindzhi off the wall at Moscow’s Tretyakov Gallery and walking away with it.
The gallery said the painting was snatched at around 6pm (3pm GMT) on Sunday during normal opening hours.
The painting, depicting the Ai-Petri mountain in Crimea, was completed between 1898 and 1908.
The Russian Interior Ministry said a 31-year-old man was detained in a village outside Moscow for questioning.
The suspect was seen walking calmly towards the famous painting before taking it off the wall
The man took the artwork in front of staff members and tourists at Moscow’s Tretyakov Gallery
After taking the painting of the wall, the man is seen walking away with it as tourists look at him
He slowly walks away and seems to go unnoticed, despite carrying the painting with him
A statement reported that the man told police he hid the painting in a building under construction in the village of Zarechye, from where it was then recovered.
Police are working to establish if the suspect had any accomplices.
‘At the time of the theft, the museum’s security – carried out by forces of the National Guard and the museum’s security service – was working normally,’ the gallery said in a statement late on Sunday.
The stolen painting is part of an exhibition by Russian landscape painter Arkhip Kuindzhi
Police detained a 31-year-old suspect for questioning while they try to establish if he had an accomplices
The famous painting ‘Ai-Petri. Crimea’ was found in a building in the village of Zarechye
After police found the stolen artwork, the gallery said the painting did not have any damages
‘Security measures at the Arkhip Kuindzhi exhibition and all sites of the Tretyakov Gallery have been strengthened,’ it added.
The suspect is believed to have used a Mercedes as his get-away car after the heist.
He had been detained last month in a drugs case in which he remains a suspect, said law enforcement officials.
The gallery said the painting was undamaged.
Art expert Mikhail Kamensky, a distant relative of British actress Helen Mirren, said: ‘Arkhip Kuindzhi is a distinguished artist but collectors are mainly in Russia.
‘If the criminal had stolen the painting aiming to sell it, it will be impossible to do so in Russia.
‘All professionals, collectors, potential buyers will know the situation. It is impossible to sell the painting abroad too.
‘All galleries and auctions linked to Russian art will be informed. Nobody will deal with the stolen painting.’
The museum experienced another incident in May last year, when a visitor caused serious damage by attacking a famous 19th-century painting of Ivan The Terrible.
Russian police officers managed to recover the painting and detained the suspected thief
Law enforcement officials said the man had been detained last month in a drugs case in which he remains a suspect
Police arrested a man, 37, who used a metal pole to break the glass covering the painting by Ilya Repin, damaging the work in three places.
The museum is currently hosting an exhibition with more than 180 paintings by Russian landscape painter Arkhip Kuindzhi that will run until February 17.
Kuindzhi (1842-1910) created a special type of romantic landscape based on a realistic perception of the world transformed by the artist’s personal touch.