French authorities are searching for 15 gold and bronze artworks stolen from the Château de Fontainebleau in an early morning break-in on Sunday. The target of the robbery was a crown that once belonged to the king of Siam. The New York Times reports that the perpetrators broke into the castle shortly after six o’clock in the morning.
The burglars were out within at least seven minutes, the time between the alarm sounding and police arrived on the scene. Officials have determined the theft was the work of “professionals.” The missing treasures are all works from the 18th century, and were taken from the Chinese wing of the castle. Most were part of the collection of precious artefacts amassed by Empress Eugenie, wife of Napoleon III.
Fleur Pellerin, France’s minister of culture and communications, said in a statement to the press that among the missing pieces was a ritual symbol, a mandala, from Tibet, and the crown, made of gold, precious stones and pearls, and with a distinct tall peak, that was presented to Napoleon III in 1861 by the ambassador from Siam.
Officials have yet to provide an estimate of the value of the items, describing them as unique and priceless. Sunday’s heist is being investigated by the Central Office for the Fight Against Trafficking of Cultural Goods, or O.C.B.C., which is a special French unit that tracks stolen works of art and cultural objects.
The last time there was a robbery at the Fontainebleau was in 1995. Strangely the exact same number of artefacts were taken in that theft, nine of which were eventually recovered.