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The robbery at Nivaagaards Malerisamling

Originally, the collection of paintings was privately owned by landowner and politician Johannes Hage, who lived 1842-1923. He established the collection in the course of around 10 years during the years 1895 to 1905, and in 1908 he turned it into a self-governing institution, which it still is today. If you visit the gallery, you get the chance to experience spectacular works of art by Danish and European artists, including works by some of Europe’s most famous and beloved artists from the Renaissance, the Baroque and the Danish Golden Age. In addition to this, the museum regularly offers exciting special exhibitions, so there are always new art experiences to enjoy in the beautiful surroundings at the manor Nivaagaard.

However, Nivaagaard is also famous for being the setting of a very dramatic story: The so-called Rembrandt robbery in 1999.

The spectacular thing about the robbery was, first, that it took place in broad daylight, and second, the value of the two paintings that were stolen. The paintings in question were Rembrandt’s Portrait of a 39-year-old woman from 1632 and Portrait of a Young Man from 1490 by the Italian Renaissance painter Giovanni Bellini. It is unclear how much they would bring in at auction, but some guess as much as 100 million Danish kroner.

The 29th January 1999 was a quiet day at Nivaagaard with only six visitors in the museum in addition to two employees. When four of the visitors left the museum, only two remained – and two men immediately took advantage of this. One of them cut down the Rembrandt painting, the other the Bellini painting. The custodian tried to stop them but was neutralised by the robbers – though not before he had had the chance to see the large dark getaway car and notice part of the Swedish license plate.

The police initiated an intense investigation, but finding the robbers and the stolen paintings was a complicated job. The police received many tips and clues, but they all led nowhere.

However, six months after the robbery, there was a breakthrough in the case. The dramatic solving of the case included an English lawyer, the Danish mobile task force, two plain-clothes agents and one agent posing as a Russian Mafioso.

On 24th August 1999, two men were arrested after trying to sell the paintings. During the court case in 2003, it was revealed that the robbers thought that the paintings were only worth around 400,000 Danish kroner – They had no idea they had stolen such unique works of art. The robbery has fascinated many people, and in 2003, the story about the robbery was turned into a movie titled Rembrandt. The movie is a loose interpretation of the actual series of events.

The paintings had suffered no damage, except a few cosmetic damages to the Rembrandt painting, and they can once again be experienced in the collection at Nivaagaards Malerisamling today.

Sources: The independent trade journal of the Danish Police, Dansk Politi, (website in Danish) and Nivaagaards Malerisamling

Photo: Nivaagaards Malerisamling

Coordinates:  Latitude: 55.927190
Longitude: 12.510940

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