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Last Updated: Wednesday, 27 August, 2003, 22:07 GMT 23:07 UK
Da Vinci painting stolen
Madonna with the Yarnwinder - from Drumlanrig castle website
The painting depicts the Madonna with the infant Jesus
Police hunting a gang who stole a Leonardo da Vinci painting from a Scottish castle have recovered a car used in the raid.

Up to four men raided Drumlanrig Castle on Wednesday morning and got away with the Madonna with the Yarnwinder, which is thought to be worth about 30m.

The painting hung in the staircase hall of the castle, an area open to the public.

A white Volkswagen Golf GTI - which was used by the gang in their escape - has been found abandoned in woods near the castle.

Dumfries and Galloway Police said the robbery happened at about 1100 BST.

Crucifixion of Jesus

A police spokesman said that two men posing as visitors overpowered a female member of staff and escaped with the painting.

The castle is home to the Duke of Buccleuch, who is one of Scotland's richest men.

It contains many valuable artworks and antiques, including works by Rembrandt and Holbein.

The da Vinci work, which experts say was painted between 1500 and 1510, depicts the Madonna with the infant Jesus holding a cross-shaped yarnwinder.

It is said to symbolise the crucifixion of Jesus.

Drumlanrig Castle
The castle is home to the Duke of Buccleuch
Police released descriptions of two men seen near the castle, which is about 17 miles north of Dumfries, at the time of the theft.

One was in his early 40s, 5ft 10in, clean shaven and of slim build.

He was wearing brown shoes, cream trousers with a black belt, a cream T-shirt, a brown Nubuck leather jacket, a brown baseball cap and round-framed glasses.

The other was in his late 40s, 5ft 10-11in, of slim build and clean shaven.

He was wearing black trousers, black shoes, a cream long-sleeved shirt, a sleeveless taupe safari-type jacket and a light cream wide-brimmed hat.

Anybody walking into a shop in Bond Street (London) or into either Christie's or Sotheby's would be arrested at once
Art critic Brian Sewell
Art critic Brian Sewell said he believed the painting was worth about 30m and that the thieves faced an almost impossible task if they tried to sell it.

He said: "It's been in all the Leonardo literature for the first 200 years.

"And nobody who knows anything about Leonardo is in ignorance of this picture. It is widely known.

"So I think anybody walking into a shop in Bond Street (London) or into either Christie's or Sotheby's would be arrested at once."

Drumlanrig Castle's art collection is on public display much of the year and other prized works include Rembrandt's Old Woman Reading and Holbein's portrait of Sir Nicholas Carew.

The valuable works of art are on display in the principal rooms and halls of the house.

The duke's art collection has been valued at 405m and he also has substantial income from his extensive estates.

The BBC's Andrew Cassell
"It had been in the family for over 250 years"

Art Critic, Brian Sewell
"There is not a market for it"

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