Category: Archive

After recovery of paintings, scrutiny of museum security

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

The raid on the famous art collection was the fourth time in 28 years that security has been breached at the stately home near Blessington. The paintings were recovered on Dec. 20.
During raids in 1974, ’86 and 2001, more than 40 paintings have been hijacked from the collection — some of them several times — by raiders who have included the notorious Dublin gang leader Martin “The General” Cahill and a Provisional IRA group.
The late Sir Alfred Beit, a former British MP, and his wife bought Russborough in 1952. The house and the paintings are now held by a public trust.
National Gallery director Raymond Keaveney, who is a member of the trust, said measures will have to be taken to afford the collection more protection.
Currently closed for the winter, the house doesn’t reopen to the public until April.
“It’s a very, very difficult decision to be made,” said Keaveney, who pointed out that the opportunity to view the paintings in the setting of the sort of great house where art works like this would have originally hung was what made the collection unique. It would be “tragic,” he said, if the public were to be deprived of access to the pictures in the setting of Russborough House. Even with high security, leading museums were also vulnerable to thieves.
“It is a difficult situation for anybody involved in providing public access to great works of art whether they be in the center of a great city or whether they be out in the countryside in a great house,” Keaveney said.
All the paintings recovered by the gardai’s Arts and Antiquities Unit of the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation were in good condition.
A Dublin couple in their 30s were arrested when the paintings were recovered from a hiding place in the attic of a Clondalkin house.
Two of the pictures, Rubens’s “Portrait of A Dominican Monk” and Adrien Van Ostade’s “The Adoration of the Shepherds [The Nativity]” had been removed from their frames. Both had been painted on panels.
The three other works, all painted on canvas, were still in their frames.
They are “Venus Supplicating Jupiter,” a sketch by Rubens; “Calm Sea,” by Wilem Van Dervelde the Younger, and “The Corn Field,” by Jacob Van Ruisdael.

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