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The BBC's Francesca Kasteliz
"The picture is an important one in the world of art"
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BBC's Nick Childs
"Art theft is now an industry worth about $5bn a year"
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Saturday, 1 January, 2000, 23:18 GMT
Hunt for stolen Cezanne

auvers A hunt has begun for the thieves of the painting

Police say that a 3m painting by French impressionist Paul Cezanne, taken from an Oxford museum, could have been stolen to order.

The painting - Auvers-sur-Oise - is an oil on canvas, dated between 1879 and 1882.

The gang struck at the Ashmolean Museum - part of Oxford University - as New Year revellers were thronging the streets.

Superintendent John Carr of Oxford Police said:"Whoever has taken this painting has given some thought to how to steal it.

"The person has some reason for it and some outlet for it."

ashmolean museum The museum has been targeted by thieves before
Museum director Dr Christopher Brown appealed for help to recover the oil landscape.

"This painting is an important early transitional picture from the very early work to the mature Cezanne, showing a small town in which he lived and worked for a short time," he said.

"It is the only Cezanne we have in the Ashmolean and it is very important as an example of late 19th Century painting."

The painting, which the museum bought in 1980, depicts a cluster of small white cottages set in a tree-filled and lush valley.

The museum said the work was framed and measured 18 by 22 inches.


Superintendent Carr said he was not linking any previous break-ins or attempted break-ins at the museum to the theft.

He appealed for New Year's Eve revellers to contact police with any suspicions, no matter how trivial.

Police were called to the Ashmolean in the early hours of Saturday after the break-in was discovered.

The thieves were believed to have broken in through the construction site for a new library which is attached to the museum.

They apparently forced their way on to the site, then clambered over rooftops of other university buildings before reaching the museum.

They then broke in through the glass roof and lowered rope ladders into the gallery to snatch the painting.

Earlier thefts

The Ashmolean Museum - which was founded in 1683 - is the oldest public museum in the world and is home to a large number of art treasures including works by Picasso and Leonardo da Vinci.

The museum has been targeted by thieves before.

In 1997, a gang tried to steal a priceless 1,100-year-old jewel made for Alfred the Great.

The thieves entered the museum using scaffolding put up during refurbishment.

The previous year, two 17th Century bottles made in France were stolen.

And in 1992, a spate of thefts forced Oxford University to step up security measures.

Greek vases, paintings, silver, a 16th Century painting stolen by a visitor under his coat and a collection of jewellery worth 50,000 were taken from the museum and several university colleges.

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01 Jan 00 |  UK
The art of art theft

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