STEALING BEAUTY: A History of Art Theft and Crime

7 week course: 17th May - 28th June 2019

From The Thomas Crown Affair to Ocean’s Twelve, the subject of art theft has gained a glamorous reputation in films and fiction, hardly surprising considering the element of risk involved in attempting to penetrate the highly sophisticated security systems of most museums today. Art theft is however one of the most serious and lucrative forms of criminal activity, with annual losses running into billions of pounds worldwide. This series of lectures explores some of the most infamous incidents of the past century, from Munch’s Scream to Van Eyck’s Ghent Altarpiece, focussing on the wide range and often strange variety of motives behind each case. We also explore the history of art forgery and what techniques can be used by museums and galleries to identify fakes and forgeries in their collections.

The course also includes special guest lectures by two of the world’s leading experts involved in the retrieval of lost art works.

Vernon Rapley is now the Director of Cultural Heritage Protection & Security at the V&A Museum in London and was for many years the Head of the Art & Antiques Unit at Scotland Yard. During that time Detective Sergeant Rapley investigated all manner of art and cultural property crime and managed to recover an incredible 60% of reported stolen art, making him one of the most successful art detectives in history. He was also responsible for the arrest of a number of famous forgers such as John Myatt and the infamous Greenhalgh family.  Vernon is also Special Advisor for the UK Government’s Cultural Heritage Protection Fund, the founder and chairman of the National Museum Security Group and Chairman of the Security of Major Museums Europe Group.

Christopher A. Marinello is a lawyer and the CEO and founder of CEO Art Recovery International LLC. As one of the world’s foremost experts in recovering stolen, looted, and missing works of art he has become uniquely proficient in negotiating complex title disputes between collectors, dealers, museums and insurance companies. He has been involved in several of the best-known restitution cases on behalf of foreign governments and heirs of Holocaust victims to recover stolen artwork and cultural property.  Chris successfully recovered the first work of art (Matisse's Femme Assise) to be restituted from the infamous Gurlitt hoard and was responsible for the recovery by the heirs of Parisian art dealer Paul Rosenberg of several Nazi-looted artworks held in Museums and private collections.  Chris has been involved in the repatriation of artwork and antiquities on behalf of the Governments of  Egypt, Ireland, Sweden, Syria, Iraq, Romania, Cambodia, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Peru, the United States, and the Republic of Italy.  

In 2013, Chris founded Art Recovery International – a specialist practice providing due diligence, dispute resolution and art recovery services for the art market and cultural heritage sectors. Within this, Chris has overseen the development of the non-profit Artive Database – the most technologically advanced system in existence for the identification and recording of issues and claims attached to works of art.  Over the years, Chris has recovered stolen and looted artwork valued at over $500 million dollars on behalf of museums, collectors, dealers, artists, governments, cultural and religious institutions and insurance companies.

We are delighted that these two distinguished experts will be joining us this term.

Art History in Focus’s courses are characterised by a relaxed and entertaining learning environment, which often allows for lively discussion. Lectures last two hours with a break for refreshments, and the talks are illustrated by high quality digital images.

Lectures are on Friday mornings and run from 11.15-1.15; doors open at 11.00

Please note, June 14th will be an afternoon session from 2.30-4.30. There is no half-term.


Further Information

Location and Directions
Churchgate House Centre
Downside Bridge Rd
Cobham, Surrey, KT11 3EJ.

To view a map of the Churchgate House Centre location click here

There is free parking at the centre, although if you are unable to find a space you can park in one of the nearby roads or in the pay and display car park on Hollyhedge Road. There is further free parking on the left just over the bridge on Downside Bridge Road.

The course is open for all to join. If you would like to attend please fill in the online booking form. If you would prefer to send a booking form by post please download a copy here.

Once your booking has been accepted, we will notify you by email. If you have not received an email confirmation, please check your ‘deleted items' and 'junk mail' folders. If you have not received a confirmation please do contact us to ensure that we have received your booking.

If you are unable to make a session you are welcome to invite a friend or relative who can replace you, just let us know a few days in advance.

We regret we are unable to offer refunds on unused course subscriptions, but your place may be transferred to someone else if you are unable to attend (please provide their name in advance, thank you)

A detailed lesson plan will be emailed to all participants approximately one week before the course begins.

Please refer to our Terms and Conditions for booking this event.

Many thanks for another excellent course - it is a very pleasant way to learn.Thank you also for making the sessions so sociable. It is lovely to meet up with familiar faces”

Mrs Christine Elgey

Read more testimonials and comments


  • Special guest lectures by two of the world’s leading experts involved in the retrieval of lost works
  • Explore fascinating case studies of art theft, art crime and forgery
  • Meet people with similar interests
  • Refreshments included



Booking is now closed.

If you have any questions regarding the course or booking please send us an email or
call on +44 (0)1932 267322

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