If you think UK galleries are safe while everyone is panicking from the COVID19 virus think again. Three paintings valued at £12m have been stolen from a University of Oxford art gallery. The haul included a work by 17th century Flemish artist, Anthony Van Dyck. The work of art depicts a Soldier On Horseback. Van Dyck was the leading court painter in England under King Charles I. The masterpiece dates from around 1616.
The burglars may have used a boat to escape after the heist. Thames Valley Police said a boat could have been used “to access and leave the site”. Det Insp James Mather said: “This is just a hypothesis at this time, but we would like to hear from anyone who has had their boat stolen recently or has noticed any unusual activity around where their boats are docked. “We are initially asking people with boats based on the River Cherwell or the River Thames near Oxford to get in touch if you have noticed any unusual activity. “If you saw anything unusual on these rivers on Saturday night, we would also ask you to get in touch. “Also, please make a report if you find any abandoned boats which have appeared since the early hours of Sunday morning.”
A Christ Church College spokesman said staff had initially alerted police to the theft of the “important cultural artefacts”, and the gallery would be closed until further notice.
The other works stolen from Christ Church Picture Gallery includes St Aldates, at about 23:00 GMT on Saturday. Police said “thorough investigation” was underway to recover the paintings. The burglars also made off with A Boy Drinking (c. 1580) by Annibale Carracci, and A Rocky Coast, With Soldiers Studying a Plan (late 1640s) by Salvator Rosa.
A Christ Church College spokesman said staff had initially alerted police to the theft of the “important cultural artefacts”, and the gallery will be closed until further notice. Det Ch Insp Jon Capps, from Thames Valley Police, said: “The paintings which have been stolen are very high-value pieces dating back to the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.
“The artwork has not yet been recovered but a thorough investigation is underway to find it and bring those responsible to justice.” He added there would be an increased police presence in the area, and that any witnesses or anyone with CCTV or other footage from near the area should get in touch.
Christ Church Picture Gallery is located within the walls of Christ Church. To visit the Picture Gallery without visiting the rest of the college, enter through Canterbury Gate off Oriel Square (from King Edward Street), only a couple of minutes walk from the High Street. The Custodian at the gate will direct you to the Gallery.
For visitors who wish to see the entire college, the entrance is at Meadow Gate. If you start from there, the Picture Gallery is located in the last quadrangle, known as Canterbury Quad, designed by the British architect James Wyatt (1746 – 1813).