Rembrandt van Rijn
A self-portrait of Dutch master Rembrandt van Rijn, circa 1631. Image: deflam/Fickr/CC BY

A stolen sketch, drawn by 17th century master artist Rembrandt van Rijn, was recovered Tuesday at an Encino, Calif., church. The sketch was stolen Saturday night from an exhibit in a luxury hotel. Police were acting on an anonymous tip.

Work of a Dutch Master

The 11-by-6-inch quill pen and ink sketch, titled “The Judgment,” was drawn in 1655 and is signed on the back by the Dutch master. It depicts a prostrate man in court, begging a judge for mercy.  It is valued at more than $250,000.

Thieves see dollar signs

Chris Marinello, executive director of the Art Loss Register, said “Rembrandt is a name that criminals know or should know. When they come across one, they see dollar signs.”

Taken while curator was distracted

The Rembrandt drawing was part of a private collection being exhibited in the upscale Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Marina del Rey, Calif. It was taken Saturday night in a bold robbery.

The curator of the exhibit turned his back on the Rembrandt when he was momentarily distracted by a patron who seemed interested in buying another piece.

“When the curator turned back to the Rembrandt, it was gone,” Los Angeles County sheriff’s spokesman Steve Whitmore said at a televised press conference early Tuesday morning.

A crime of convenience

The sketch was being displayed on an easel and was not fastened down in any way. Whitmore said the robbery was probably one of convenience and was not a planned out, premeditated caper as seen in Hollywood movies.

It is still unknown whether the person talking to the curator was part of the crime, but police believe that at least two people were involved.

Tipped off by anonymous call

The detectives in the case were tipped off by an anonymous caller Monday night that the sketch could be found in a church in the San Fernando Valley city of Encino, about 20 miles from the hotel where it was stolen.

Recovered early Tuesday

The drawing was recovered at 12:05 a.m. Tuesday and was subsequently authenticated by the exhibit’s curator.

Whitmore cited the press coverage of the theft as instrumental in the quick recovery of the sketch. “The reason why this tip was called into us was because they saw all the coverage. They saw it, and then they remembered seeing this in a church in Encino,” he said.

Investigation under way

Authorities say they have no suspects yet in the case, but an investigation is in progress. The name of the Encino church was not released.


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