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Stolen Rembrandt: 'Obviously, the pastor isn't a suspect,' police say

August 16, 2011 | 12:43 pm

Stolen Rembrandt recovered by sheriff's department
A Rembrandt stolen from a Ritz-Carlton in Marina del Rey and later recovered at an Encino church was left in a pastor's office after a suspect entered through an open door, an official said Tuesday.

St. Nicholas Episcopal Church on Ventura Boulevard, where the drawing was left, was "open to the public," said Steve Whitmore, a spokesman for the L.A. County Sheriff's Department.

"Obviously, the pastor isn't a suspect," Whitmore said. "Someone left it there."

Whitmore confirmed earlier Tuesday that deputies recovered the sketch from the office of the Rev.  Mike Cooper on Monday night after it had been stolen  Saturday night from the Ritz-Carlton in Marina del Rey.

Investigators were trying to determine whether it is an authentic Rembrandt. Cooper referred questions to Whitmore.

The sketch, titled "The Judgment," was recovered after authorities received a tip Monday evening that someone had seen the artwork on church property. Deputies went to the property and recovered the drawing, which was positively identified by its owners, the Linearis Institute, Whitmore said.

No one has been arrested in connection with the theft, he said.

The 11-inch-by-6-inch, quill-pen-and-ink work dating to about 1655 was part of an exhibition staged by the Linearis Institute. Officials at the institute have not returned telephone calls.

The institute is described on its website as "a public repository for the visual arts specializing in works on paper by great masters of the past 500 years."

The artwork was stolen Saturday between 9:20 p.m. and 9:35 p.m.; a curator told investigators he had been distracted by a guest.

"When the curator turned back to the Rembrandt, it was gone," Whitmore said.

Art experts said works by Rembrandt are some of the most popular targets for art thieves, second only to those by Picasso.

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-- Richard Winton and Abby Sewell

Photo: Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department spokesman Steve Whitmore, left, Det.  Estevan Martinez and Deputy Clarence Williams handle "The Judgment." Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times

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