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The Boy in the Red Vest, 1894-95

Recovered April 11-12, 2012


Paul Cézanne - The Boy in the Red Vest, 1894-95

Paul Cézanne (French, 1839-1906). The Boy in the Red Vest, 1894-95. Oil on canvas. 80 x 64.5 cm (31 1/2 x 25 3/8 in.).

© E. G. Bührle Collection, Zurich

Paul Cézanne hardly ever bothered to date (or even sign) his work, but we are able to approximate with Boy in the Red Vest because (1) this same young man sat for other Cézanne compositions in the early 1890s and (2) the interior here is that of his Paris studio in Rue d'Anjou. The identity of the sitter is a mystery, though he is dressed in an Italian costume here.

At this phase of his career, Cézanne had almost completely moved away from what he saw as the "unstructured" nature of Impressionism and was now concentrating instead on planes -- big, colorful, intersecting, complementary compositional forms. Note here the numerous intersecting diagonals: the legs, the table, the curtain, the wall, the vest and the boy's pose. That right arm is way out of proportion, but! The overall composition is perfectly balanced because of it.

About the Theft:

At around 4:30 p.m. on Sunday, February 10, 2008, three thieves wearing dark clothing and ski masks entered the E. G. Bührle Collection on the shores of Lake Zurich in Switzerland shortly before the facility was due to close for the day at 5:00 p.m. While one thief ordered visitors and staff, at gunpoint, to lay on the floor, the other two quickly stripped four side-by-side Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings from a wall in the "Music Room." Law enforcement officials speculate that these canvases were not stolen "to order," due to the fact that they were hanging together when taken, and also because more valuable works are on display elsewhere in the Collection. $91K (US) in reward money leading to the return of these paintings is reported to be available.

About the Recovery

Boy in the Red Vest was the last canvas (of four, total) to be recovered from the 2008 Bührle Collection robbery. It was found between the ceiling upholstery and the roof of a van during a joint Swiss and Serbian police raid that occurred April 11-12, 2012, in a Belgrade suburb. Four men -- allegedly the robbery mastermind and three accomplices -- were arrested and will stand trial in Serbia.

The raid itself had been planned since 2010, and was executed as the men were moving the painting to a rendezvous with a buyer. According to Serbian Interior Minister Ivica Dacic, a wealthy Serb had agreed to pay $4.6 million (US) for the Cézanne -- a fraction of its estimated $110 million value. Along with the canvas, the men also had nearly $2 million in cash and weapons in the van.

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