A $250,000 drawing by Dutch master artist Rembrandt van Rijn that was stolen from an exhibit at The Ritz-Carlton in Marina del Rey was recovered two days later at an Encino church, authorities said.
Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department spokesman Steve Whitmore said the department received a tip that the 10-by-6-inch quill pen and ink piece was discovered in the office of a church in the 17000 block of Ventura Boulevard Aug. 15. Sheriff’s officials would not confirm the name of the church, but some news sources reported that the artwork was found at the St. Nicholas Episcopal Church at 17114 Ventura Blvd.
The 1655 drawing called “The Judgement” was taken from The Ritz-Carlton Marina del Rey Aug. 13 in what authorities called a well-planned theft.
Sheriff’s Department Marina del Rey Station detectives believe the highly valuable artwork was lifted off an easel sometime between 10:20 and 10:35 p.m., when the curator was distracted by another person interested in a different piece. Detectives said while it was unclear if that person was connected to the theft, they believe that more than one person was involved, including at least one man.
No arrests have been made following the Rembrandt drawing’s recovery.
“Our detectives are reviewing the hotel security video for information identifying those involved,” Whitmore said. “The hotel has top quality security.
“We believe that because of the way this was done it was probably thought out; (the suspects) had probably seen this exhibit before and they planned it in a way that they could snatch and grab it.”
Vivian Deuschl, vice president of public relations for The Ritz-Carlton, did not have information regarding the type of exhibit that featured “The Judgement” piece and said she could not comment on the theft until the police report was completed.
Representatives of the Linearis Institute, which exhibited the 17th-century drawing for the hotel event, could not be reached for comment on the loss and recovery.
Whitmore said it was unknown how or why the stolen artwork ended up at the Encino church, but sheriff’s officials believe the extensive publicity surrounding the crime was a key factor in the suspects dropping it off.
“The press needs to take a tremendous amount of credit for this and it brings to the forefront the interesting relationship between the press and law enforcement,” he said. “In this case, the press helped bring home this drawing to its rightful owner.”
Asked about the rather quick recovery, Whitmore said the thieves likely learned early on that such a valuable work with so much attention would be very difficult to sell.
Detectives are working on making a sketch of the suspects wanted in connection with the incident.
Whitmore said the framed drawing, which is locked in a Sheriff’s Department evidence room, will be dusted for fingerprints and forensic analysis will be done in search for more clues.
“We don’t believe they executed it well enough for them to get away with it,” Whitmore said of the suspects.