A Cavalier

FRANS VAN MIERIS THE ELDER

1635 – 1681

Oil Painting, 1657 – 1659

20 x 16 x 1 centimeters

Insured Value at Time of Theft: $1.4 million

Date of Theft: 6 June 2007

THE ARTIST

Frans van Mieris, the Elder is one of the great Dutch Master Painters who worked during Holland’s Golden Age of painting.  His specialty was genre and portrait paintings of wealthy patrons who admired his accomplished hand at rendering lush fabrics, specifically the satin skirt.

Mieris worked in a very small scale, rarely going over 12 to 15 inches, which compels the viewer to stand very close the painting. The result is an unusual intimacy between the viewer and the art work.

THE WORK

A Cavalier is a great example of Mieris’ work, its small scale gives it the intimacy that his work is known for.  It is a self-portrait. The clothing is elegant but not excessive.

Frans van Mieris’ works sell at auction for prices between $3 thousand and $3 million.  His most expensive work to sell at auction is titled A Young Woman in a Red Jacket Feeding a Parrot and sold for over $5 million.

THE THEFT

The painting was owned by the philanthropist James Fairfax. In 1993, he donated it to the New South Wales Art Gallery in Sydney, Australia.

On 10 June 2007, the painting was stolen from the museum. For two days, no one noticed that the painting was missing. After weeks of investigation, viewing security footage and staff interviews, the police were unable to come up with any meaningful clues. However, they did conclude that it was an inside job because the security screws were removed without setting of the alarm system.

The theft of the painting came at a particularly embarrassing time for the gallery since they had just revealed the details of the largest security operation in it’s history in preparation for an Islamic arts exhibition opening eight days later. Although the gallery wouldn’t estimate a value for the painting, it is thought to be worth well over $1 million.