Francis Bacon Paintings Worth $33 Million Stolen From Madrid Home

The heist took place at the residence of Bacon’s last lover and heir.

Auction houses are resorting to financial arrangements amid greater competition. Photo: Christie's

Five paintings by Francis Bacon have been stolen from the private residence in Madrid of J. C. B., a Spanish friend of the legendary painter who inherited the artworks when Bacon died, in 1992.

The five paintings have a combined worth of €30 million ($33 million). According to El País, it’s the biggest contemporary art heist to have taken place in Spain in the last few decades.

The theft occurred in June 2015, when J. C. B. left his residence in the Plaza de la Encarnacion—an affluent area in the center of Madrid, near the Senate and the Royal Palace—for a few hours.

The heist has only been made public now for unspecified reasons, but an investigation has been unfolding ever since on both a national and international level, El País reports. The artworks, which are said to be of medium to small size, haven’t been found yet, but it is believed that they are still on Spanish soil.

The thieves entered the five-story building without being seen by either the doorman or neighbors, and broke into the private residence after de-activating the alarm. It is believed that the burglars monitored the movements of the owner while he was away to make sure they wouldn’t get caught red-handed upon his return.

The building doesn’t have CCTV cameras, but investigators have reportedly examined the security cameras in the area.

A building in Madrid’s Plaza de la Encarnación, the square where the theft took place last June.Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

A building in Madrid’s Plaza de la Encarnación, the square where the theft took place last June.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

According to El País, investigators were particularly alert during the recent edition of ARCO, Madrid’s contemporary art fair, during which they thought they might encounter some activity related to the stolen works.

“The circle in which a work like this can be sold is very small,” an expert in contemporary painting told El País on condition of anonymity. “It’s not easy at all to offer a Francis Bacon, big or small, without news reaching the scouters of this specific sector. It won’t be easy for the thieves,” he explained.

In 2013, Bacon’s Three Studies of Lucien Freud (1969) fetched $142.4 million at an auction at Christie’s New York, smashing records at the time.

Meanwhile, ABC reported that the initials J. C. B. correspond to José Capelo Blanco, and that he was Bacon’s last lover during a relationship that lasted four years, until Bacon’s death in Madrid in 1992.

According to the Spanish newspaper, Bacon met the young financier at a party in the honor of the choreographer Frederick Ashton, when the painter was 78 years old and Capelo 35. Capelo went on to pose for the artist on several occasions, including for a 1987 portrait and a 1991 triptych that is currently part of the MoMA collection.

The Irish-born London-based painter had strong links to Madrid built over many decades. He visited the Spanish city on numerous occasions not only to see friends, but also to enjoy the masterpieces at the Museo de Prado, particularly the work of Diego Velázquez and Francisco de Goya, who were a huge influence in his fascinating and tortured oeuvre.

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