Burglars Broke Into a Dutch Museum and Made Off With 11 Rare Chinese Ceramics

The heist comes less than two weeks after a failed break-in attempt at the institution.

The Princessehof Ceramics Museum in the city of Leeuwarden, Netherlands. Courtesy of the Princessehof.

The Princessehof Ceramics Museum in the Dutch city of Leeuwarden is closed to the public this week following a late-night theft. 

The incident took place in the early hours of Monday morning. The burglar, or burglars, entered through the roof of the museum, then made their way to the first floor, where rare Chinese ceramics were installed as part of an ongoing exhibition called “Party!

Eleven ceramics were stolen from the show. The shards of seven were found in the street outside the museum—broken, perhaps, as the thief, or thieves, fled the scene. Four pieces remain missing.

“The perpetrators seemed to have specific knowledge and to have struck in a targeted manner,” the Princessehof said in a statement

“These are valuable pieces of Chinese ceramics,” a museum spokesperson elaborated in an email to Artnet News. “For these museum objects, there is a very small market, so we don’t expect that the intention was to offer [them] for sale. We don’t want to speculate, but a targeted assignment seems more likely.”

The heist occurred less than two weeks after an unsuccessful break-in attempt at the museum on Wednesday, February 1. After the incident, the museum “tightened up” security measures at the institution and “has been very alert to deviant behavior,” the statement explained. It’s unclear whether the previous incident was conducted by the same persons. 

Representatives from the Princessehof did not immediately respond to a request for more information about the burglary, including the estimated value of the targeted ceramics. 

Leeuwarden police have launched a forensic investigation into the heist, and are currently collecting security footage from the neighborhood around the museum. Investigators are calling for potential witnesses to come forward with any additional evidence. 

The museum said it intends to reopen next Tuesday, February 21.

Housed in an 18th-century castle—the same building, it turns out, where MC Escher was born in 1898—the Princessehof Ceramics Museum is the only national museum in the Northern Netherlands. The institution maintains a world-class collection of Asian, European, and modern ceramics, and has the largest assemblage of Chinese porcelain in the country.

Party!”, the exhibition from which the 11 ceramics were stolen, examines how and why different cultures celebrate in the Netherlands.


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