Firm sentence of two years in prison for the countess who stole a painting by Van Dyck


The Supreme Court has upheld a conviction of two years in jail for an aristocrat who stole and disappeared a painting by Belgian artist Anton Van Dyck. The judges declare it proven that this countess received the painting from its British owners and that she kept it without paying the price they had previously agreed upon. To this day the painting has not appeared.


Two years in prison for the aristocrat who appropriated a Van Dyck

Two years in prison for the aristocrat who appropriated a Van Dyck

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The painting arrived at the hands of the Countess at her home in Madrid in June 2014. Cristina Ordovás Gómez-Jordana, widow of the Count of Ruiz y Castilla Juan de Goyeneche, received the work ‘Anna Sofía, Countess of Carnarvon’ attributed to the Belgian painter Anton Van Dyck between 1633 and 1641. Its real owners, the British John Raymond Gloyne and Noel Christopher Kelleway, had sent him the painting until he decided if he wanted to buy it.

The answer never came and the painting was never seen again. Ordovás, according to the Justice, “incorporated the work into his patrimony, disposing of it without the consent of its owners” and never paid the 165,000 euros that he had agreed with the British businessmen. The artwork never reappeared and the Countess has never revealed its true whereabouts. His explanations have gone from a loss to a sale to third parties to a delivery by mistake to another person and even to the possibility that the painting is in London pending a change of frame.

The Supreme Court has just confirmed his conviction for a misappropriation crime. Two years in prison in addition to a fine of 3,240 euros and the obligation to compensate the two owners of the painting with the price of 165,000 euros that they had agreed on for the work of art, in addition to interest. The accusation has been brought by one of the two owners of the painting: the other died last year at the age of 68.

The judges of the criminal chamber reject each and every one of the points of the appeal of the convicted aristocrat. Her lawyer had alleged lack of evidence against her, that they had signed a contract of sale or that the painting attributed to the Flemish painter could not be considered as artistic heritage. The Supreme Court is direct: “He was left purely and simply with a painting that did not belong to him; a painting that the owners had deposited in his home so that the accused could study whether to buy it or not, being that way he actually decided to keep it, but of directly and without going through civil contracting. ”

Saorín, Monastery, Wolfmeier …

The ruling explains that the two scammed Britons had acquired the painting at an auction at Christie’s in 2009 and decided to sell it. They gave it, according to the Supreme Court, to Pedro Saorín to get it sold in exchange for a commission. It was then that, after trying unsuccessfully at auction, the countess appeared as a potential buyer. They authorized the painting to be transferred “from the Monastery antique dealer to the defendant’s home” and negotiated its sale for 165,000 euros. She did not pay and the painting did not appear and the different versions of the aristocrat were happening when the antique dealer’s son and even the owners went to his house to claim it.

In another of the versions that the Supreme Court has not believed, it is also that before losing him in the supposed move “he had been handed over by a domestic employee to his service, due to confusion, as he affirms, to Gherard Wolfmeier“, a businessman based in Mijas. The only certainty of all this, says the Supreme Court is that the countess” decided to appropriate it by de facto means “without paying a price” that she always tried to avoid, already indicating her “disappearance”, already indicating a third-party ownership in the person of Pedro Saorín, who despite the allegations of the appeal, was never proven, to invoke an alleged compensation “.

The defendant alleged, among other things, that they had previously agreed on the price. The judges reject that this can overcome any kind of exculpation and compare the case with the sale of a suit: “In the same way that when a merchant leaves a consumer to take home a suit to try it on more slowly, to decide whether acquired or not; and if once in his possession, the consumer decides to keep it for good, even though the label indicates the true price of the same, neither the sale has been concluded, nor does it prevent the illicit appropriation from being consumed undue, at that time when the consumer decides to incorporate the asset he had in deposit into his patrimony “.

A “mere truism”

The judges also reject the final argument of his defense in an appeal that came to question the artistic and heritage value of the disappeared painting. The Supreme Court says that even if the painting “is not relevant in the work of Anton Van Dyck,” its integration into the historical, artistic and cultural heritage “becomes mere obviousness”. The criminal room stands out, with magistrate Andrés Palomo as speaker, who “is about a painter who has portraits hanging on the walls of the Louvre, the Prado, the National Gallery, the Hermitage, the Rijksmuseum, the Gallery. of the Uffizi…, and an enormous number of collections more “.

The sentence has not been unanimous and has the individual votes of Leopoldo Puente and Javier Hernández, two of the magistrates recently incorporated into the chamber presided over by Manuel Marchena. They understand, first, that “there has not been sufficient evidence to determine that the price for which the sale was agreed was established, beyond any reasonable doubt, after the moment in which the defendant had the table.” They also understand that the case should have been resolved by civil and not criminal proceedings with a crime of misappropriation.

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