A postcard of the stolen painting at the museum in Magritte’s former home ((Johanna Geron/AFP/Getty Images)

A masterpiece by the surrealist painter René Magritte worth up to €3 million (£2.7 million) was stolen by armed thieves yesterday in a lightning daylight raid on a museum dedicated to the artist’s life and work.

Olympia, a nude inspired by Magritte’s wife and muse Georgette, was taken off the wall of the small gallery in the artist’s former home after staff and visitors were ordered to lie down in the back garden.

The two raiders, said to be of Asian appearance, wore hats and wigs to hide their faces from surveillance cameras and made off on foot up the quiet street of terraced houses in the Brussels suburb of Jette, probably to a waiting car. One was said to have spoken English and the other French.

Staff at the museum, which has no metal detectors or other screening equipment at the entrance, were left in shock at the loss of their most prized asset, which was painted in the building in 1948. Police said that the thieves appeared to know exactly what they were looking for and that it was probably stolen to order.


David Charter
The Times