Three-times stolen Dutch masterpiece on show at Ulster Museum

A security guard keeps watch as the three times stolen painting by Dutch master Jacob van Ruisdal was unveiled yesterday in the Ulster Museum
A security guard keeps watch as the three times stolen painting by Dutch master Jacob van Ruisdal was unveiled yesterday in the Ulster Museum

The Ulster Museum is taking no risks after putting on display a painting by a Dutch master that has been stolen three times.

There was a visible security presence today as the museum unveiled The Cornfield by Jacob van Ruisdael which was stolen from the same stately home in Co Wicklow three times between 1974 and 2002 but recovered on each occasion.

The Cornfield by Dutch master Jacob van Ruisdael

The Cornfield by Dutch master Jacob van Ruisdael

Acquired more than a century ago by Sir Otto Beit, the piece joined a considerable collection of Old Master works assembled by his relative, the diamond magnate Alfred Beit.

In 1930, the collection passed to his son Sir Alfred Lane Beit – a former British MP – who relocated it some 20 years later to Russborough House where The Cornfield hung in the saloon alongside other Dutch paintings.

The painting was stolen from Russborough House for the first time in 1974 by an IRA gang.

The gang broke into the property making off with 19 paintings including the van Ruisdael. All of the stolen paintings were recovered in Co Cork a few weeks later.

Brendan Gleeson and Adrian Dunbar in the 1998 film The General which featured Dublin criminal Martin Cahill's theft of The Cornfield from a stately home in Co Wicklow

Brendan Gleeson and Adrian Dunbar in the 1998 film The General which featured Dublin criminal Martin Cahill's theft of The Cornfield from a stately home in Co Wicklow

In 1986, the house was robbed again, this time by the Dublin criminal Martin Cahill nicknamed The General.

He took the van Ruisdael as part of a heist of 18 paintings. However, The Cornfield was recovered days after the robbery.

A 1998 film about Cahill’s exploits starred Brendan Gleeson and featured the infamous theft of the paintings from Russborough House.

In 2002 The Cornfield was once again stolen from the stately home along with four other paintings. They were recovered three months later.

Since then the painting has been acquired through the Acceptance in Lieu Scheme and allocated to National Museums Northern Ireland where it was today unveiled in the Ulster Museum.

The acceptance of this painting settled tax worth £1million.

Kathryn Thomson, chief executive of National Museums NI, said: “We are thrilled that The Cornfield by Jacob van Ruisdael has been given to National Museums NI for all our visitors to enjoy.

“The Ulster Museum holds a small but important collection of 17th century Dutch paintings and the undisputed beauty of The Cornfield, an important work from the Beit collection, will significantly enhance this collection.

“I have no doubt that this beautiful painting will captivate visitors to the Ulster Museum.”

The Cornfield by Jacob van Ruisdael will be on display in the Life and Light Dutch and Italian Painting exhibition at the Ulster Museum. Admission to the museum is free.