Art thieves lead Spanish police to stolen Francis Bacon paintings

Three artworks by Irish-born artist Francis Bacon from a collection worth over £22 million were recovered by Spanish police in Madrid last week.

The paintings were among five works by the acclaimed 20th century artist stolen in June 2015 from the home of Bacon’s friend, José Capelo. It is believed to have been the largest contemporary art heist in Spanish history.

Capelo, to whom Bacon bequeathed the works in his will, was visiting London at the time his Madrid house was robbed of the paintings. The burglars also stole a safe in which Capelo stored jewels and other valuable objects.

Spanish police succeeded in tracing the lost the works after they received information from the London-based Art Loss Register (ALR), which operates the largest database of stolen art in the world. The ALR had received a request for information about one of the stolen works from an inquirer in Sitges, close to Barcelona.

After the inquirer forwarded photographs of the work police were able to track down the professional photographers from the camera they used. This lead to the arrest of one of the suspected burglars and several accomplices.

A total of ten people have been arrested in connection with the investigation into the stolen works since May last year. The investigation is ongoing and one police source told reporters that investigators are “very hopeful to locate the other two stolen paintings”.

Despite having received no formal training as a painter Bacon has become a household name in Britain. He died of a heart attack in Madrid in 1992 at the age of 82.

Director of Recoveries & General Counsel at the ALR, James Ratcliffe, said “the return of the pictures is testament to the benefits of international cooperation between the private sector and law enforcement agencies”.

If you’re looking for art law advice visit us at Boodle Hatfield. 

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