Owners of fine art – particularly rare porcelain – are being warned to be on their guard following the daring theft of a porcelain collection worth up to £1m from a country estate in Sussex.
The warning comes from specialist Heritage insurance company, Ecclesiastical, whose underwriters are concerned that the unusually well planned and executed theft from Firle Place a Grade I listed country estate near Lewes, could trigger copycat crimes or mark the start of a campaign of similar break-ins.
On 19 July, criminals stole 21 items of rare porcelain valued at up to £1m from Firle Place. Thieves entered the property via the first floor, breaking a glass window and removing pieces from two glass cases.
The stolen porcelain was manufactured by the French Sevres factory, one of the oldest and most prestigious producers. All of the pieces were collected by the Gage family, owners of Firle place since the 1530s.
Ecclesiastical’s Fine Art Underwriting Manager, Clare Pardy, commented:
“The thieves who stole this magnificent porcelain obviously knew what they were doing. The theft was planned, organised and efficient. However, because the pieces are world famous and instantly recognisable to anyone in the art world, we hope it will be difficult to sell them on.”
“Although the circumstances of this theft are quite extraordinary, it does serve as a timely reminder for all owners of fine art to check on their security precautions and update them as necessary.”
“Although many collecting fields are feeling the pinch currently, the top end of the market continues to do well as it continues to be fuelled by true collectors. Of course for many of the historic houses we insure, the art collection is often part of the historic fabric of the house and the loss is much more than simply a monetary one.”
“It’s therefore good practice to regularly review the value of your art collection. Its value can change dramatically depending on current interest in the market. The value you are insured for may fall well short so you could consider increasing cover. On the flipside, art value may drop meaning you’re paying too much for cover. Either way, regular reassessment of value is crucial. Of course we mustn’t forget that most art is unique, its value to families who have collected it is priceless. So we need to prevent thefts in the first place.”
“It’s widely known that in times of recession we see a rise in theft. Owners of fine art should be very aware of this and review the protection they have in place. We are concerned that this claim may be the first of many.”
In October 2006, a gang of 14 was arrested by police for a series of break-ins to five stately homes over 17 months in which goods worth up to £80m were stolen. They were jailed in August last year. Another criminal gang targeted stately homes in Yorkshire during 2007 and took, among other items, a £500,000 Chippendale table from Newby Hall, Ripon.
About Sevres porcelain
The Sevres Porcelain factory is one of the oldest and most prestigious producers of quality French porcelain in France. Originally established in the mid 18th century, the Sevres mark has remained at the forefront of European porcelain production for over 200 years. Among other things, Sevres French porcelain is well known for its exquisite use of vibrant colours, which, during the 18th and 19th centuries, was highly innovative. Other producers of French, English and German Porcelain went to great lengths in attempting to imitate the colours used on Sevres Porcelain.
Sevres porcelain is often distinguished by its prominent use of dark blue and turquoise in addition to rose pink, yellow and green.