Stephane Breitwieser, along with the aid of his mother Mireille Stengel and longtime accomplice and girlfriend Anne-Catherine Klienklaus are the three of the most successful art thieves in modern history. Mainly because they kept what they stole.
Art thieves scourer the black market in hopes of cashing in on priceless pieces. While stolen art is risky – the reward is often worth it. In an industry where cash is king, their story is quite different. Sometimes alone, but often with his girlfriend, Breitwieser stockpiled a private collection of stolen art objects. Some, worth more than a billion dollars.
Hoarding it away in their living quarters of his mother’s house in the Alsace. The sleepy border town where they lived provided access to both Germany and Switzerland – where most of their heist took place.
Because of Breitwieser’s unyielding and obsessive love for his stolen pieces they never reached the market. Making not so much of a “career” from his theft, and more of a dangerous and illegal hobby. Breitweiser devasted by the loss of his collection was a man without direction.
Never fully recovering from his loss; his relapse was inevitable. Breitweiser served time in 2005 for the theft of a painting by Pieter Brueghel the Younger. Breitwieser was once more arrested last month, the final act of a police sting dating back to 2016.
During his 2001 arrest, his mother Mireille Stengel, in a combination of fury and admiration for her son destroy most of their collection. Stengel and Kleinklaus, cowardly and with wanted abandon marooned the majority of their collection in the nearby canals. Resulting in Breitwieser serving an insubstantial four years for the theft of over 200 objects. Of those priceless pieces, 140 found in the canal. Stengel and Kleinklaus also served jail time for the attempted destruction of those pieces – some valued in millions.
Breitweiser’s tale is one of daring, cunning and a cumulation of wit sheer nerve.
Not inclined by the thrill of grand larceny, I can not imagine having the talent to pull off anything on the scale of Breitweiser.
Given the opportunity though, I think “The Star” by Edgar Degas would look splendid over my mantlepiece.