The Bronx born man, Melvyn Kohn, alias, William Kingsland, was a greatly admired art afficionado, moving amongst the elitist inner circle of New York art collectors. He was a debonair gentleman, with an encyclopedic knowledge of art and literature. He spoke often of his prized collection, though few, if any of his friends, had ever been invited to his Manhattan home to view it.
Upon his death in 2006, due to the fact that Kingsland left no will, his estate fell into the hands of the state of New York, and that is when his movie-like ruse of a life began to unravel. The authorities found his tiny one bedroom apartment filled to the chocker-block with valuable artworks. It appears that William loved being surrounded by beautiful art as much as he loved being surrounded by the people who could afford to collect it.
Stolen Corot drawing, Landscape with Bridge
When Christie’s and Stair Galleries were called in to research the provenance of the artwork, they had a rude awakening. It seems most of the pieces housed in Kingsland’s collection had been reported stolen in the 1960′s and 1970′s.
Amongst the pieces, was a valuable drawing by Camille Corot, titled, the Landscape with Bridge.
It can only be surmised that Melvyn, one of the most entertaining 20th Century art rogues, had taken the name of William Kingsland, for believing it had just the right ring to play to the ears of the chic Manhattan crowd, of which he, so madly, wanted to be a member.
It is just such a love of the life of art that makes art theft, often looked upon, with a wink and a smile in the world of crime today.
On May 3, 1998, a most embarrassing theft took place at The Louvre museum in Paris. While hundreds of visitors were enjoying this lovely Sunday afternoon, touring the grand halls of the world’s most secure art institute, a very sly thief pried open a glass security case, containing a thirteen by nineteen inch Corot canvas, unnoticed, and sliced it from around its frame.
Upon the discovery of the missing picture, the exit doors were immediately locked, and every bag carried by every visitor, was checked thoroughly, until the search was concluded, unsuccessfully, many hours later. The stolen artwork is the Le Chemin de Sevres, painted by Camille Corot in 1858-1859. The small pil painting with a value of $1.3 million dollars has yet to be found.
Stolen Camille Corot painting, Le Chemin de Sevres, 1858-1859
Five other Corot paintings were stolen from the Museum of Semur-en-Auxois in southern France in 1984, supposedly for Japanese collectors. Four of the five paintings were recovered in the store window of a Tokyo art dealer’s gallery and returned to their rightful owner in France.
On September 4, 1972, in the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, two figure paintings by Corot were stolen during a large heist. La reveuse a la fontaine and Jeune fille accoudee sur le bras gauche, considered to be priceless, have yet to be recovered.
In 1999, Corot’s Road descending from the town of Volterra, was discovered in a bank safe rented by the late François Daulte. Daulte was a leading expert in Impressionist works. This was part of a collection reported stolen by Yves Rouart. Still missing from Rouart is Corot’s Dreaming Bohemian Girl.
In Le Pecq, France on March of 2008, an antique dealer’s home was robbed. Thieves took about 30 paintings, one of which was by Corot.