Art hoard worth millions found in Polish shed

Two hundred works of art ranging from the High Renaissance to German Baroque to the Modern period have been discovered in the dirty backyard shed of a retired bricklayer in Szczecin, Poland. Only one work has been positively identified thus far, a 1903 lithograph by Jozef Czajkowski, and it provides a clue as to the provenance of the rest of the paintings: it is listed on the Art Loss Register as having been looted from the Silesia Museum in Katowice, southern Poland, during World War II. The oldest work, still not identified by name, dates to 1532.

The bricklayer, known only as Antoni M. since Polish law prohibits printing his family name at this juncture, is 92 years old and recently suffered a series of strokes. He cannot speak, so we don’t know how he got his hands on this collection. Preliminary investigations indicate that he found the art in the 60s while working on a construction site. He secreted it away and built a shed in his garden purposely to store the purloined paintings.

It’s not just a lean-to, either. According to police reports, the building looked like a bunker or a bomb shelter, with 30-inch-thick walls, a metal door and interior sliding walls. Unfortunately, he paid all that attention to security and none whatsoever to keeping conditions inside the bunker propitious for a massive art collection. The works were exposed to moisture and dust and are in very poor condition.

They’ve been transferred to the National Museum in Szczecin where Polish and Italian art historians are assessing the damage and working to identify each piece.

Antoni M. is under formal investigation for handling stolen art. Polish police are working closely with Interpol to trace the history of the works and figure out how they wound up in a backyard shed.

Here’s some raw footage of piles of art crammed into that filthy shed and then laid out in what looks like a conference room, maybe at the police station or in the museum.

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9 Comments »

Comment by edahstip
2011-11-09 22:22:54

Someone should start an investigation as to why that conference room is painted in such a horrid shade of green. :ohnoes:

Comment by livius drusus
2011-11-10 03:36:56

:lol: If ever there was a green in need of Interpol intervention, that one is it.

 
 
Comment by Mr. Murphy in VA
2011-11-10 10:36:53

Has anyone ever researched and written on why people secretly hoard material like this? I mean, it is one thing to steal or discover this stuff, but it seems amazingly pointless to not attempt to gain fame or fortune from it. Maybe the authorities should take a look at what is hanging in this guy’s house — and maybe the homes of his friends and relatives, too.

 
Comment by Wicked yankee
2011-11-10 11:03:48

Stories like these always make me hopeful that many of the lost artifacts of history will someday resurface. King Philip’s belt, Davy Crocket’s rifle . .they’re probably in someone’s shed or attic.

 
Comment by Robert Weidner
2011-11-11 11:51:19

Those people probably don’t even know what they have…

 
Comment by D. B. Cooper
2011-11-13 00:14:30

If you asked me what I would expect to find in a Polish shed, I don’t think I’d say a hoard of looted artwork. Maybe there’s a joke in there somewhere, but I’m very glad these have been recovered and am excited to see the restoration work.

Comment by livius drusus
2011-11-13 13:39:02

Several of the articles called it an “outhouse” too, so when I first saw the headline I thought a hoard of looted artwork was found in a Polish toilet. There’s definitely a joke in there, but damned if I can find it.

 
 
Comment by Edward Goldberg
2011-11-15 18:32:30

As Mr. Murphy notes, the psychological parameters of Antoni M.’s hoarding is intriguing…once we stop beating our bloody fists against the wall over the bizarre semi-destruction of these objects. Thankfully, LD is on this developing story (you are, LD, aren’t you?)

Comment by livius drusus
2011-11-16 01:04:25

Fear not, for I am on it.

 
 
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