But away from the big screen, art looting is big business.
From Vincenzo Peruggia, the man who stole the Mona Lisa in 1911 through to Adam Worth, the master criminal who is thought to be the inspiration behind “Moriarty” in Arthur Conan Doyle’s tales of Sherlock Holmes, art thieves have been pursued across the world by police and detectives.
On Friday, two paintings by Vincent Van Gogh stolen in a 2002 heist in the Netherlands were found 14 years on after a “massive” investigation into a group linked to the Italian mafia.
The artworks were taken from Amsterdam’s Van Gogh Museum in December of 2002 by thieves who broke into the building using a ladder to access the roof.
Not all artworks are recovered. Caravaggio’s Nativity with St Francis and St Lawrence, which was taken from an oratory in Palermo in 1969, has yet to be found.
But it’s not alone — there are plenty of paintings which have disappeared — and others which have made an unlikely return.
Madonna with the Yarnwinder
Back in 2003, the $45-50 million Leonard Da Vinci painting ‘Madonna with the Yarnwinder’ was stolen from the Duke of Buccleuch’s home in Scotland. The painting was recovered in 2007 but the duke died a month before it was recovered.
In 2008, four masterpieces by Paul Cezanne, Edgar Degas, Vincent Van Gogh and Claude Monet were stolen by masked raiders at the Buehrle Foundation museum in Switzerland.
The four paintings, “Poppies near Vetheuil” by Monet, “Count Lepic and his Daughters” by Degas, “Blossoming Chestnut Branch” by Van Gogh and “Boy in a Red Waistcoat” by Cezanne were estimated to be worth a combined $64 million.
Police recovered two of the four paintings a short time later — the works by Monet and van Gogh. The Degas was retrieved with slight damage in 2012 and the Cezanne was found in Serbia in the same year.
Francisco Goya’s painting, “Portrait of the Duke of Wellington” was stolen in 1961 and was missing for four years. A retired bus driver Kempton Bunton later confessed to the crime and was jailed for three months. The painting was recovered.
“I went up to it, took hold of it, and carried it back to the toilet,” he told the police.
“I climbed over the wall, still holding the picture in one hand … I put the picture on the back seat of the car and drove back to [his furnished room in] Grafton Street. I then put the picture under my bed.”
Picasso’s “La Coiffeuse” (“The Hairdresser”) was discovered missing in 2001 and was recovered when it was shipped from Belgium to the United States in December 2014.
The shipper said it was a $37 piece of art being sent to the United States as a Christmas present. It was actually a stolen Picasso, missing for more than a decade and worth millions of dollars.
Lost work of Renoir
A Renoir painting finished in the 1800s, loaned to a museum, reported stolen in 1951 and then bought at a flea market in 2010 has to be returned to the museum, a judge ruled on January 10, 2014.
The tiny painting, titled “Landscape on the Banks of the Seine,” was bought for $7 at a flea market by a Virginia woman. The estimated value at the time of its recovery was between $75,000 and $100,000.
Seven famous paintings were stolen from the Kunsthal Museum in Rotterdam, Netherlands, in 2012, including Claude Monet’s “Charing Cross Bridge, London.”
The paintings, in oil and watercolor, include Pablo Picasso’s “Harlequin Head,” Henri Matisse’s “Reading Girl in White and Yellow,” Lucian Freud’s “Woman with Eyes Closed” and Claude Monet’s “Waterloo Bridge”. Works by Gauguin and Meyer de Haan were also taken.
Several people were convicted in connection with the theft but the paintings have not been found.
Eight months after Salvador Dali’s “Cartel de Don Juan Tenorio” was stolen in a New York gallery, a Greek national was indicted on a grand larceny charge in 2013.
Among their many crimes, the Nazis plundered precious artworks as they gained power during World War II. “Adele Bloch-Bauer I,” by Austrian artist Gustav Klimt, was confiscated from the owner when he fled from Austria.
It is currently in New York’s Neue Galerie.
Many works of art that were taken by the Nazis were never recovered. Others were returned after years of legal battles.
“Christ Carrying the Cross,” by Italian artist Girolamo de’ Romani, was returned to his family in 2012.
“The Scream” was one of two Edvard Munch paintings that were stolen from the Munch Museum in Oslo, Norway, in 2004.
Three men pulled off the raid in broad daylight before being arrested in 2006.
“I was walking down the road with two friends when the sun set; suddenly, the sky turned as red as blood,” Munch wrote, describing how the idea for the painting came about.
“I stopped and leaned against the fence, feeling unspeakably tired. Tongues of fire and blood stretched over the bluish black fjord. My friends went on walking, while I lagged behind, shivering with fear. Then I heard the enormous, infinite scream of nature.”