Thieves walk off with Renoir painting ahead of auction
Police in Austria are searching for three men in connection with the theft of a landscape painting by French impressionist Pierre-Auguste Renoir.
The suspects are believed to have brazenly stolen "Golfe, mer, falaises vertes" -- or "Bay, Sea, Green Cliffs" -- from Vienna's Dorotheum auction house, which was open to visitors at the time.
The lesser-known landscape -- valued at up to €160,000 (around $181,000) -- is thought to have been cut from its frame late on Monday, ahead of its planned sale at the Dorotheum Wednesday, the city's police force told Reuters.
Images of the three suspects were retrieved from security camera footage and released by the police.
Patrick Maierhofer, a spokesman for the Vienna police, told CNN that investigators were now in contact with international police forces. "Everything happened really quick and fast, so we think that the suspects were professionals," he said. "They just took the painting out of the frame and walked out. They were very coordinated."
Painted in 1895, the artwork measures 27 centimeters by 40 centimeters (11 by 16 inches).
Though not one of Renoir's best known pieces, the painting is still well known and will be hard to sell, James Roundell, director of Impressionist and Modern art at Dickinson, a London-based art dealer, told CNN in a telephone interview.
"When something is 'hot' like this and nobody wants to touch it, the danger is that it gets destroyed. I hope that whoever has stolen it realizes that it is impossible to sell on and then makes some sort of arrangement to hand it back."
Another painting by Renoir features on the FBI's Top Ten Art Crimes list.
Valued at $1 million, "Madeleine Leaning on Her Elbow with Flowers in Her Hair" was stolen during an armed robbery in 2011 from a residential property in Houston, the FBI said on its website.
The FBI established the Top Ten Art Crimes list in 2005. Since then, six paintings and one sculpture have been recovered, including another Renoir work, titled "Young Parisian," stolen from Sweden's National Museum.