Brazen Bandits Bag Bacons

MADRID.- Five paintings by British artist Francis Bacon, worth an estimated 30 million euros, have been stolen from the Madrid home of their owner, El Pais reported Sunday.

The lordly house is located in quiet district in the centre of Madrid has become the scenario of the largest theft of contemporary art seen in Spain over recent decades. A clean and silent theft carried out in one of the most secure and patrolled zones of the city.

Art collectors of Art Kabinett social media network are perplexed as to how any thief can possibly hope to sell such famous works.

Sources close to the investigation said the theft appeared to have been a highly-professional operation which took place while the owner was away, with the perpetrators disabling the alarm system.

The thieves, who left no trace of their handiwork, had tracked the owner's movements to ensure he did not return to his apartment to catch them red-handed, they said. No fingerprints were found.

El Pais quoted the sources as saying the artwork, comprising portraits and landscapes, was stolen last June. It was not immediately clear why news of the theft was not made public until now.

It was also unclear exactly which paintings were involved but one contemporary art specialist told the paper they would be extremely difficult to sell.

"It is not at all easy to sell a Francis Bacon, large or small without that getting to the ears of those who pore over such a rarified sector," said the expert, speaking on condition of anonymity.

El Pais said police from a specialist arts and antiques unit had opened an investigation into the heist.

The theft occurred last June, when the owner reported the theft to the Police, and a court in Madrid is now investigating the whereabouts of this particular collection of landscapes and portraits, according to press reports of those close to the case who declined further comment. The silence of the detectives and the owner has been complete.

The works are owned by the 59 year old Spaniard J.C.B., a friend of the Irish artistic genius from whom he obtained his inheritance being an art lover. The owner of the paintings was a close friend of Bacon.

Agents from the Police National Historical Heritage Brigade, under the General Commissariat of the Judicial Police, have been searching both inside and outside Spain, so far without success, although they believe the artwork remains in Spain.

Irish-born Bacon died in Madrid in 1992 aged 82 and his expressionist-surrealist works, which are often raw and emotional, remain hugely sought after.

Bacon's death only enhanced his reputation and the 2013 sale of his 1969 work, "Three Studies of Lucien Freud", shown here, fetched $142,405,000 at auction, a world record at the time.

Art market information leader Artprice lists Bacon as one of 10 frontline modern artists alongside the likes of Picasso and Andy Warhol Warhol whose works comprise 18 percent of global sales.