A former worker at the Deutsches Museum has been sentenced to prison for stealing 4 paintings from the museum and selling three of them.
The unnamed 30-year-old worker worked at the Deutsches Museum between 2016 and 2018. A provenance researcher happened upon Franz von Stuck’s Das Märchen vom Froschkönig and realized that even though the frame was authentic, the painting itself was a poor copy of the original. Upon further investigation, the museum found out that three other paintings were stolen – Eduard von Grützner’s Die Weinprüfung, Franz von Defregger’s Zwei Mädchen beim Holzsammeln im Gebirge, and Franz Defregger’s Dirndl.
Eventually, it was revealed that the worker had replaced the von Stuck painting with a copy and sold the original to a Swiss gallery for €70,000 ($74,000). The sale was facilitated by the auction house Ketterer Kunst, who was told that the painting belonged to the worker’s grandparents. He had left the original frame on the copy to fool provenance – a feat he hoped to repeat with the other works as well, as evident from their original frames still left in the museum. He managed to sell two more paintings for €12,000. With the money, he bought a new apartment, a Rolls Royce, and multiple luxury watches.
On September 11, a court in Munich sentenced him to 21 months in prison. He was also ordered to pay more than €60,000 in damages. The court remarked that the worker “shamelessly exploited his access to the depots in his employer’s premises and sold valuable cultural property to secure himself an exclusive standard of living and to boast about it.” However, the court also said that the sentence was not severe because the accused had no prior criminal record and appeared genuinely remorseful of the act.