A 31-year-old woman in Hamburg, Germany, has filed a complaint against her for the theft of an oil painting by Pieter Aertsen from a museum in Bielefeld, authorities said on Wednesday.
Normally, this would signal an unusually neat end to an art theft case, except that the alleged thief misplaced the painting she said she stole.
On April 27, an as yet unidentified woman removed the 16th century painting Portrait of a young woman out of its frame in broad daylight, put it away in a big folder and walked out of the Huelsmann Museum in Bielefeld. According dpathe German press agency, she claims to have lost work the same evening.
Aertsen, often called Lange Piet because of his height, was a Dutch painter who worked in the Northern Mannerist style. He is credited with the invention of monumental genre painting, a mixture of still life and genre painting often incorporating biblical aspects.
Aertsen liked to overturn the traditional hierarchies of subjects in painting. Unlike his contemporaries, who framed the action around religious imagery, Aertsen cheekily foregrounded everyday objects and passers-by. A slice of meat dominates the frame of his Christ in the house of Mary and Martha (1552), while Jesus and his company converse far in the background. He is particularly praised for his exuberant market scenes, such as Market Woman with vegetable stall (1567), which depicts an abundance of produce.
Authorities said an acquaintance of the Hamburg woman searched her apartment for the painting without success. The suspect has not confessed to the motive for the brazen crime and the search for the artwork continues.