This is the moment a brazen thief steals a famous painting in front of staff and tourists at Russia’s top art gallery in broad daylight yesterday.
Police have arrested a man they believe stole the artwork, ‘Ai-Petri. Crimea’, painted by 19th century artist Arkhip Kuindzhi.
State television aired footage of a man calmly taking the painting off the wall at Moscow’s Tretyakov Gallery and walking away with it.
The gallery said the painting was snatched at around 6pm (3pm GMT) on Sunday during normal opening hours.
The painting, depicting the Ai-Petri mountain in Crimea, was completed between 1898 and 1908.
The Russian Interior Ministry said a 31-year-old man was detained in a village outside Moscow for questioning.
A statement reported that the man told police he hid the painting in a building under construction in the village of Zarechye, from where it was then recovered.
Police are working to establish if the suspect had any accomplices.
‘At the time of the theft, the museum’s security – carried out by forces of the National Guard and the museum’s security service – was working normally,’ the gallery said in a statement late on Sunday.
‘Security measures at the Arkhip Kuindzhi exhibition and all sites of the Tretyakov Gallery have been strengthened,’ it added.
The suspect is believed to have used a Mercedes as his get-away car after the heist.
He had been detained last month in a drugs case in which he remains a suspect, said law enforcement officials.
The gallery said the painting was undamaged.
Art expert Mikhail Kamensky, a distant relative of British actress Helen Mirren, said: ‘Arkhip Kuindzhi is a distinguished artist but collectors are mainly in Russia.
‘If the criminal had stolen the painting aiming to sell it, it will be impossible to do so in Russia.
‘All professionals, collectors, potential buyers will know the situation. It is impossible to sell the painting abroad too.
‘All galleries and auctions linked to Russian art will be informed. Nobody will deal with the stolen painting.’
The museum experienced another incident in May last year, when a visitor caused serious damage by attacking a famous 19th-century painting of Ivan The Terrible.
Police arrested a man, 37, who used a metal pole to break the glass covering the painting by Ilya Repin, damaging the work in three places.
The museum is currently hosting an exhibition with more than 180 paintings by Russian landscape painter Arkhip Kuindzhi that will run until February 17.
Kuindzhi (1842-1910) created a special type of romantic landscape based on a realistic perception of the world transformed by the artist’s personal touch.