Police have recovered three of the five works of contemporary artist Francis Bacon that were stolen in 2015 from a private residence in one of Madrid’s most secure neighborhoods, sources close to the matter have confirmed. The theft is considered to be the greatest contemporary art heist in recent Spanish history. The five paintings by the artist, who was born in Dublin and died in Madrid in 1992, are valued at around €30 million by some estimates.
The paintings are the property of José Capelo, 59, a friend of Bacon’s who inherited them after his death and has long been enamored with the artist’s work. Last January, police detained three suspects in Madrid who were connected to the robbery, while seven others had already been arrested the previous year. According to police sources, the three latest detainees are allegedly the criminals who broke into the house where the paintings were hanging. The people who actually plotted the robbery, including its mastermind, were arrested in May 2016 and are currently out on bail.
The crime was perpetrated in July 2015 at a private residence, just meters from the Senate building
The crime was perpetrated in July 2015 at the residence of Capelo, situated very close to the Plaza de la Encarnación, a highly guarded area with little traffic located just meters from the Senate building. The thieves entered the house while the owner was away in London. The arrests last January were possible after investigations by a British firm specializing in art theft.
The alleged thieves behind the plot unsuccessfully tried to sell the paintings in Spain on at least two occasions. According to the police investigation and judicial reports, the most recent attempt was made during a meeting held in February 2016 at a modern three-story house on Madrid’s Duque de Alba de Majadahonda street.
The police operation into the theft remains open, with investigators keeping quiet about their progress. They do, however, trust that they will recover the two works stolen in the heist that are yet to be found.
Bacon’s work commands some of the highest prices on the market. His Three Studies of Lucian Freud – a friend and the grandson of psychoanalysis founder Sigmund Freud – was auctioned off in 2013 for a then-record $142.4 million (since surpassed by Picasso’s Women of Algiers). In 2014, British auction house Christie’s also sold Bacon’s Seated Figure for €32 million.
English version by Henry Hahn.