The Six Greatest Art Heists and Scams in History

This past weekend, some daring criminals sauntered into the Marina del Rey Ritz-Carlton hotel and absconded with an original drawing by Rembrandt estimated to be worth $250,000. After a tip, the 17th-century sketch turned up in an Encino church about 20 miles away.

 

Since art heists are on the brain, here are six instances where the best of human artistry brought out the worst of human trickery.

 

1. WHEN GREEKS LOSE THEIR MARBLES

 

Since 1832, some of the greatest treasures of ancient Greek civilization have been residing in the British Museum. And the Greeks, who understandably consider themselves the rightful owners of things Greek, want their stuff back. The objects in question are the Elgin Marbles, so called because they were removed by Thomas Bruce, the seventh earl of Elgin, and British ambassador to Constantinople.

 

Elgin claimed to have removed the friezes and sculptures because the Ottomans (who ruled Greece at the time) were neglecting them. Of course, critics are more than happy to tell you the good earl outright stole them. Whatever Elgin's motives, the workers who removed the sculptures did terrible, irreparable damage to the Parthenon. The marbles arrived in England between 1801 and 1805 to a mixture of awe and outrage. A profligate spender (earls just wanna have fun!), Elgin piled up huge debts and ended up selling the collection to Parliament in 1816. Since then, a cold war of sorts has simmered between the governments of England and Greece over the return of the sculptures. In fact, proponents of returning the marbles to Greece have removed Elgin's name and refer to them simply as the Parthenon Marbles.

 

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