Two works by Spanish painter Salvador Dalí valued at 300,000 euros and stolen last year from a private house in Barcelona have been found in a warehouse and returned to their owners, police said today.
The works are the drawings “Els Pagesos” and “Les sardanes de la festa major”, made by Dalí in 1922, following a commission made to the artist for the illustration of a book that never got published.
The works were taken in January last year from a house in Barcelona by three brothers aged 50, 53 and 55 who were engaged in robbing villas considered to be luxury in the Catalan capital.
The robberies were aimed at taking money, jewellery and other valuable objects, and were not focused on works of art, which ended up misleading the police investigation, who initially thought that Dalí’s drawings had been stolen on commission from some collector or dealer of works of art, the Catalan police explained today.
The lead for Dalí’s drawings, which had been sought by the authorities in the usual circuits of artwork trafficking, came through a person who contacted the police to offer information about the whereabouts of the works in exchange for money.
This person had been contacted by the brothers who stole the works, who offered to buy the drawings. She was eventually arrested by the police and it was through her that investigators began to follow the three brothers, with the aim of reaching the Dalí.
The authors of the theft contacted several possible buyers of the works of Dalí and received expressions of interest from a person in Portugal, but the deal did not move forward, according to police.
Without yet being able to figure out where the works were, three months later, the police ended up arresting the three brothers because they were about to “continue with the thefts and that could not be allowed”, José González, head of the historical heritage unit of the Catalan police, explained today at a press conference.
Interrogated, the three detainees gave no clues about the Dalí works, which were eventually located in a warehouse that police officers reached through an entrance opening code that was in a message stored on a mobile phone seized from the criminal brothers.
The current owners of the two drawings are the descendants of the Catalan lawyer, writer and politician Pere Coromines, who was a friend of Salvador Dalí’s father.
It was Pere Coromines himself who commissioned the works from the then 19-year-old artist.
The works were intended to illustrate a book that was never published, but the two charcoal drawings were kept by the family and were, framed, in the house of Montserrat Herrera, Pere Coromines’ granddaughter, until they were stolen in January last year.
After they were located, seven experts from the Dalí Foundation certified the authenticity of the drawings, of a “more naif Dalí, that plasma popular festivals”, explained today the director of the Dalí museums, Montse Aguer.
According to Sotheby’s of New York, the Sassoon Codex is the oldest and most complete Hebrew Bible ever discovered and will be offered at auction with an estimate of US$30-50 million. This makes it the most valuable printed text or historical document ever offered.
The oldest and most complete Hebrew Bible, more than a thousand years old, will be auctioned in May 2023 for an astronomical price of up to $50 million, Sotheby’s announced on Wednesday.
“A founding text
The Sassoon codex, named after its most famous owner, David Solomon Sassoon (who died in 1942), dates from 900 AD and is “the most complete Hebrew Bible (…) estimated at between 30 and 50 million dollars, among the most expensive manuscripts ever sold,” Richard Austin, head of ancient books and manuscripts at Sotheby’s told AFP.
The sale will take place in May 2023, during the classic spring auction season for contemporary, modern and impressionist art held by the industry’s behemoths in New York: Sotheby’s, owned by French-Israeli tycoon Patrick Drahi, and rival Christie’s, controlled by French billionaire François Pinault’s holding company Artemis.
Asked about potential buyers for the codex, Richard Austin said the list of buyers was “a bottomless pit”: it is “a founding text of civilisation, and it would be difficult to find a text that has had more influence than the Bible in the history of humanity”.
This Bible in Hebrew – the original language of the Old Testament which also contains passages in Greek and Aramaic – “belonged to important collectors in the 20th century; it is obviously possible that it will go to an institution to be studied there, including abroad” and “whatever the beliefs”, added the expert, referring to Judaism, Christianity, Islam or atheism.
In perfect condition
This Sassoon codex, in a visibly exceptional state of preservation and with only a few pages missing, links 24 books of the Hebrew Bible taken from the famous Dead Sea Scrolls dating from the 3rd century BC.
The bible, which is more complete than the Aleppo codex, has been authenticated by carbon 14, “confirmed by palaeographic and codicological research (…) and has survived for more than a millennium in the hands of public and private collectors,” Sharon Liberman Mintz, a specialist in Jewish texts at Sotheby’s, told AFP.
The art auction company boasts in a press release that it is the specialist in the market for old manuscripts and books. In November 2021, it sold an original copy of the Constitution of the United States of America for the record price of 43 million dollars. The document was acquired by the American billionaire Kenneth Griffin, owner of the investment company Citadel, who was to lend it to a museum in Arkansas.