Published January 13, 2015
A 17th century Rembrandt etching portraying a scene of Biblical temptation was stolen from an art gallery in broad daylight, and authorities were searching Monday for a pair of fast-moving thieves.
Titled "Adam and Eve," the small etching depicts the Old Testament couple in the Garden of Eden.
Gallery owner Tom Hilligoss said a middle aged couple walked into his presentation room Sunday afternoon and left about five minutes later. After the two left, it was discovered that the etching was missing.
"They went straight for it," Hilligoss said of the couple, who were not caught on any of the gallery's security cameras.
Chicago police had no one in custody Monday afternoon.
Art consultant Grazina Macius was working at the gallery and saw the couple walk in. No one saw them leave.
"They went straight into the preview room. They didn't linger. They didn't look," she said.
She said the woman had blonde hair and wore a tan coat, while the male suspect had gray hair and a dark blue jacket. He was carrying a gray baseball cap and resembled a popular local sports figure, she added.
"He was stocky built," Macius said. "If you think of Mike Ditka shape-wise, OK, similar hairline ... He was just square-built, nondescript."
While etchings often are reproduced, the one stolen from the Michigan Avenue gallery was an original dating back to 1638. Hilligoss placed its value at $60,000.
In the etching, Eve is showing Adam an apple while a dragon-like figure watches from atop a tree.
Suzanne Folds McCullagh, an early prints and drawings curator at the Art Institute of Chicago, described the etching as "whimsical" and said its unflattering portrayal of Adam and Eve "was quite a shocker in its day."
"It shows the first couple as being not quite the epitome of beauty ... This is not the ideal couple," McCullagh said. "It's probably a connoisseur's print."
Hilligoss, who was selling the etching on consignment for a friend, said the two suspects had been spotted in the gallery before. He believes the thieves may have targeted the etching after finding a prospective buyer.
"They told somebody that 'I can get you this piece.' And they probably had someone waiting for it. But it wasn't ordered it was sold —— pre-sold."