Stolen paintings by legendary Irish artist Francis Bacon worth more than £20m recovered by Spanish police

Stolen paintings by legendary Irish artist Francis Bacon worth more than £20m recovered by Spanish police

THREE paintings by renowned Irish artist Francis Bacon have been recovered by Spanish police after they were stolen two years ago.

The paintings were seized near Barcelona after a tip-off was received by art database firm Art Loss Register (ALR).

The three artworks – part of a total of five stolen in June 2015 – are estimated to be worth more than €25m (£22m; $29m).

They were stolen alongside jewellery and other objects belonging to Spanish banker José Capelo, who was a friend of the Dublin-born artist.

In a statement, Spanish police said an email from an unnamed individual to ALR contained unpublished photographs of the artworks taken after the theft.

Thanks to those pictures, it was possible to identify the specific model of camera that the photographs were taken with.

Police traced it to a camera rental company and then tracked down the renter of the photographic equipment.

This information led the police to the suspected thieves and eventually to the stolen artworks.

Ten arrests have now been made relating to the case.

The ALR’s director of recoveries and general counsel, James Ratcliffe, said: “The return of the pictures is testament to the value of collaboration between the public and private sector.

“We gave the police this lead to help them track down these individuals. The Spanish police have done a fantastic job.”

During the raid which recovered the artworks, police found suspected robbery equipment including firearms, oxy-fuel cutting equipment, frequency inhibitors, uniforms from telecommunications companies and fake keys.

It also uncovered laser measurement sensors, insignia from security companies and a guide to unlocking safes.

Born in Dublin in 1909, Francis Bacon had no formal training as a painter but became one of the most prominent artists of his era.

He lived most of his life in London before dying of a heart attack in Madrid in 1992, aged 82.

In 2015, two Bacon self-portraits sold for a combined £30m at a Sotheby’s auction in London, having been kept hidden in a private collection for decades.

A Bacon painting depicting the Irish artist’s friend Lucian Freud set a world record in 2013, becoming the most expensive artwork ever sold at auction when it fetched $142m (£89m) in New York.