Miniature altar destroyed by thieves at the V&A

Grab and smash operation on 11 November



During the afternoon of11 November, thieves broke a case in the Victoria and Albert Museum to wrench a miniature (40.6 x 25.4 cm) altar from its mounts, breaking the piece in the process and leaving the upper gable and other pieces behind. Made of gold, ebony, rock-crystal, lapis-lazuli and semi-precious stones, the altar frames Annibale Fontana’s relief “The Flagellation of Christ” and scenes from the Old Testament and the Life of Christ. The latter are Netherlandish, but the whole piece appears to have been assembled in South Germany around 1590. Paul Williamson, head of sculpture at the museum, points out that, given the immense scale of the collections, older cases such as that which contained the altarpiece can only be made completely secure over a long period of time, although all new galleries have sophisticated security.

Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as ‘Grab and smash at the V&A'