In Case You Missed It: A German museum worker was sentenced for stealing and selling paintings from Munich's Deutsches Museum, replacing the originals with fakes.
A German museum worker was sentenced for stealing paintings from his employers and replacing them with forgeries, in order to sell the real ones to fund his “luxury lifestyle,” according to a district court in Munich.
The 30-year-old man, unnamed as per German privacy law, was also convicted of stealing three other artworks from Munich’s Deutsches Museum, where he worked as a technical staffer, according to a statement published by the court on 25 September.
He sold the originals through the museum’s own auction house and used the proceeds to pay for an apartment, a Rolls Royce and expensive watches.
In the two years during which the man worked at the Deutsches Museum, from 2016 to 2018, he first stole Franz von Stuck’s 1891 “The Fairy Tale of the Frog King,” which he sold for €70,000. He told the auction house the painting belonged to his grandparents.
He also stole and sold Eduard von Grützner’s “Tasting the Wine” and Franz von Defregger’s “Two Girls Collecting Wood in the Mountains;” he failed to sell the final painting he stole, Defregger’s “Dirndl”.
The Deutsches Museum isn’t an art museum, which is the main reason the paintings went so long without being missed.
While the Munich museum is a scientific and technical institution, it has a large collection of donated art in its archives, making it particularly vulnerable to this type of theft.
The “clumsy” forgeries were finally discovered by an in-house appraiser who was doing research and noticed the paintings he saw in storage didn’t match the pictures of the works in the museum catalogue.
The Munich court handed the man a hefty 21-month suspended sentence but said the remorse he showed – along with his clean criminal record – helped him avoid jail. He was also ordered to pay back the museum more than €60,000 for the stolen paintings.
“He stated that he had acted without thinking,” the court statement read. “He could no longer explain his behavior today.”