The Story of... The $1m Chagall painting stolen for a peace 'ransom'


It is a cruel truth that few artists see real success during their lifetimes, as often the best painters and sculptors are said to have been 'before their time'.

However, there are those who flaunt this tradition and become recognised for the unquestionable brilliance. One such man was the Russian-French Jewish painter Marc Chagall.

His talent saw him master fields including painting, illustrating and designing, and he became a highly prominent artist during the 20th century.

After his death he left a legacy, with his works being sold alongside those of other masters like Dali and Picasso. However, it was because of his posthumous success that one of the most infamous art crimes in recent times occurred.

His oil painting, Study for Over Vitebsk, was stolen from Manhattan's Jewish Museum in June 2001, while on loan from private collector in Russia. The theft of the 1924 artwork, valued at more than $1m, took place during a cocktail party. What made this event unique however, was the reason for the crime.

The group which claimed to have taken it, calling themselves the International Committee for Art and Peace, said they would only return it if their ransom demands, for peace in the Middle East between Israel and Palestine, were met.


Marc Chagall's famous oil painting, Study for Over Vitebsk

Of course, nothing came about as a result of the theft, so it was feared the painting could become another famous artwork never to be found. Imagine the surprise then when, just several months later in January 2002, it turned up again by chance - in Kansas.

It was found in a postal office because it had been declared undeliverable. Safe to say, it was an odd conclusion to extraordinary crime. Chagall's Study for Over Vitebsk now hangs proudly in the Russian Museum, in St Petersburg.


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