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Last Updated: Monday, 6 August 2007, 07:55 GMT 08:55 UK
'Invaluable' art stolen in France
Fine Arts Museum in Nice
Police said the stolen paintings were worth about 1m euros
Masked raiders have stolen four paintings in a daylight raid on an art gallery in Nice in the south of France.

Police said five men made off with two works by Flemish artist Brueghel and two paintings by the impressionists Sisley and Monet on Sunday.

Officials at the Musee des Beaux-Arts said the works were "invaluable".

Two of them were stolen from the same museum nine years ago, but were recovered within a week. The then curator was later jailed for theft.

In the latest raid, the men, wearing masks and jumpsuits, entered the gallery in the heart of Nice when entry was free for the public.

Allegory of Earth by Flemish artist Jan Brueghel
Allegory of Earth by Jan Brueghel was among the works stolen
They threatened members of staff before removing the paintings and escaping - two on a motorcycle and three in a car.

"One of the staff members told me that the men told him to lie on the floor as they put the paintings in bags," the museum's assistant curator Monique Bailet said.

"They wanted to take a fifth but could not do so."

The stolen paintings include Claude Monet's Cliffs Near Dieppe, from 1897, and Alfred Sisley's The Lane of Poplars at Moret, which dates from 1890.

The two stolen works by Jan Brueghel, a Flemish Baroque-era painter, were Allegory of Water and Allegory of Earth.

Police in Nice said the combined value of the four paintings was about 1m euros (670,000).

They believe the works were stolen to order, as they are too well-known to be sold on the open market.

Arrest over stolen Picasso piece
02 May 05 |  Entertainment
French art thief on trial again
06 Jan 05 |  Europe

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