DETECTIVES in Madrid have just revealed that over €30 million worth of paintings by the Irish artist Francis Bacon were stolen from a mansion in one of the city's most élite and safest districts.
Although the artworks were stolen in June, the theft has only just come to light – partly because of plain clothes officers purporting to be buyers expressed an interest in purchasing some Bacon paintings at the recent ARCO art fair, without success.
They had been hoping one of the five portraits and landscapes inherited by the late artist's personal friend, J. C. B., 59, would be offered to them.
Experts say the market for Bacon's paintings is so limited that any offers of purchase, or attempts to sell, would immediately be heard about by everyone within the very tight circle of traders specialising in the Irish artist's works.
As a result, the thieves would have trouble remaining anonymous.
A 'theft on commission' has been ruled out as 'unrealistic', although as thieves managed to sneak in without forcing entry or exit and deactivated the alarm, this remains a possibility in practical terms.
The mansion in the Plaza de la Encarnación, walking distance from the Senate, only had a simple alarm and no central one.
Francis Bacon, who died in Madrid in 1992, produced some of the world's most expensive artworks – his Three studies of Lucian Freud, the painter grandson of Sigmund – was only recently knocked off the top spot for priciest painting in the world by Pablo Picasso's Women of Algiers, having sold for US$142.4 million in 2013.
One of Bacon's more 'cheap and cheerful' paintings includes Seated Figure which was snapped up at Christy's two years ago for a 'mere' US$32m.