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Da Vinci stolen from Scottish castle
( 2003-08-28 09:43) (Agencies)

Thieves stole a painting credited to Leonardo Da Vinci from a castle in Scotland Wednesday after posing as tourists and overpowering a security guard, police said.

Thieves stole a priceless painting by Leonardo Da Vinci, titled 'Madonna of the Yarnwinder' from a private collection in a Scottish castle Aug 27, 2003, police said. The painting, symbolizing the Passion of Christ with the infant Jesus clinging to the cross-shaped yarnwinder, dates from between 1500 and 1510.     [Reuters]
They said two men walked into Drumlanrig castle, near the southern Scottish town of Dumfries, overpowered a guard, disabled an alarm and pulled Leonardo's "Madonna of the Yarnwinder" off the wall.

They escaped in a white Volkswagen car with two accomplices.

The Madonna, painted in the first decade of the 16th century, has a checkered and disputed history.

Leonardo is known to have worked on it between 1500 and 1510 for the Secretary of State to French King Louis XII. But there are two versions of the painting and no one is quite sure how much work Leonardo did on either of them. The other version is in the United States.

"There's been a long dispute as to which is the original and the answer is neither," said Brian Sewell, one of Britain's leading art critics.

"There's no doubt the (Scottish) picture was initiated by Leonardo but it was almost certainly finished off by a not altogether competent assistant in the studio," he told Sky Television News.

Despite that, he said the painting would probably fetch around $39 million if it ever came to market.

The Scottish version of the picture depicts the Madonna seated against a backdrop of hills and a serene sea. Christ sits on her lap holding a wooden winder, used to wrap yarn, which is shaped like a crucifix.

In its style and feeling, the painting is often compared to Leonardo's "Mona Lisa," which Leonardo painted at around the same time.

The Madonna was one of the most important works in a private collection built up by the Dukes of Buccleuch and Queensbury at the imposing, 17th-century Drumlanrig castle.

The collection also houses works by Rembrandt and Holbein.

Britain's National Criminal Intelligence Service estimates that raids on the country's art collections, galleries and stately homes net between $470-785 million each year.

In April, thieves stole three works by Van Gogh, Picasso and Gauguin from a gallery in Manchester. The works were later found stuffed inside a cardboard tube in a local public lavatory. ($1=.6370 Pound)

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