Search JTA's historical archive dating back to 1923

Chagall Paintings Float Away in Burglary at L.a. Art Gallery

June 6, 2000
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

A skillful thief with apparently precise tastes has stolen two of Marc Chagall’s paintings with Jewish themes from a Beverly Hills art gallery.

The two paintings, with a combined value of over $500,000, were taken in a meticulously planned and executed heist from the Timothy Yarger Fine Art Gallery on posh Rodeo Drive.

Chagall completed both paintings — “Moises et 1es Table de la Loi” (Moses and the Tablets of the Law), and “Le Juif a la Thora” (The Jewish Man at the Torah) — around 1981, four years before his death, said gallery owner Yarger.

The paintings, which came form Chagall’s personal collection, were purchased directly from his estate, said Yarger.

However, a third Chagall painting that was hanging between the other two, this one showing a Parisian scene with flowers was left untouched, as were even more valuable paintings by Picasso, Renoir and Miro in the same room.

“All signs point to a theft-to-order,” he said. “It wasn’t just a random burglary.”

The break-in was discovered May 29 by construction workers on an adjoining project, who noticed that someone had sawed a hole through the gallery’s rear fire door, and notified police.

By climbing through the hole, the thief apparently circumvented an alarm system, as well as inside motion detectors and surveillance cameras.

“One burglar, or burglar, came in, went upstairs, came right to this location, took the paintings and disturbed nothing else,” said Yarger.

Yarger waited almost a week before making the theft public to give police and insurance investigators a clear track without interference from the media.

But now, Yarger said in an interview Sunday, he and police are circulating photos of the two paintings in the hope that they will be recognized as stolen if the thief tries to sell them to an auction house, gallery or museum.

It is more likely, however, that the paintings will be kept behind closed doors for decades or generations.

Recommended from JTA