Intruder breaks into gallery to steal priceless Rembrandt paintings

An intruder broke into an art gallery in an “audacious” attempt to steal two priceless Rembrandt paintings.

The thief forced entry to Dulwich Picture Gallery in south London and removed the works from an exhibition of the Dutch master’s art at 11.30pm on Wednesday.

Police alerted by the building’s alarm arrived minutes later and chased the intruder, who sprayed an officer in the face with an unknown substance to escape but left without the paintings.

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Officers and gallery security staff found the pictures, which were part of the Rembrandt’s Light exhibition which opened last month, but it is not clear if they were damaged.

“Neither painting had left the gallery grounds and both remain in the gallery’s care,” Scotland Yard said in a statement.

Detective Inspector Jason Barber added: “This was an audacious attempted burglary and was clearly planned in advance.

“Two paintings in the exhibition were targeted and it was only down to the prompt response of gallery security staff and the courage and swift intervention of officers that these two works of art were not stolen. Thankfully both the paintings were quickly recovered and secured.”

“Our enquires now centre on finding whoever was responsible for this crime and I would ask anyone with information to call police.”

The officer who was sprayed in the face was not seriously hurt and remained on duty.

Dulwich Picture Gallery declined to reveal which paintings were targeted in the burglary or their value.

The exhibition, which marks 350 years since Rembrandt’s death with 35 of his paintings, etchings and drawings, includes major works loaned from the Louvre in Paris and Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum.

The exhibition features major Rembrandt works loaned from The Louvre in Paris and Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum (Dulwich Picture Gallery)

A gallery spokesperson said: “Last night intruders attempted to remove two paintings from Dulwich Picture Gallery’s Rembrandt’s Light exhibition.

“The intruders were detected by the gallery’s robust security systems and, thanks to the immediate intervention of security staff and the swift response of the Metropolitan Police, the paintings were secured at the scene.

“The exhibition and gallery will remain closed until further notice, to allow the police to conduct a full investigation into the incident.”

Dulwich Picture Gallery’s curators collaborated with award-winning Star Wars cinematographer Peter Suschitzky for the display, which was set to go on until 2 February.

In 2010, the gallery installed upgraded security to guard Rembrandt’s Portrait of Jacob de Gheyn III, which was listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the most frequently stolen painting in the world after being taken four times.

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