Saturday, March 12, 2011

Burglars steal 400,000 Euros--most earned by Spain's 'painting nun'--horded in a Zaragoza convent

Sister Isabel Guerra, 92 x 60 cm., oil on canvas

Spain's "La Crisis" struck the Cistercian convent of Santa Lucia in Zaragoza, Spain on 28 Feb. as burglars stole between 400,000 and 1.5 million Euros.

The numbers are all over the place. A mystery unfolds.

Everyone agrees a crime was committed. Consensus ends there. 

Maybe, suggested Spanish authorities, more than one crime requires solving.

Thieves broke three doors, searching the convent undetected in the dead of early morning, locating and stealing a plastic bag loaded primarily with 500-Euro notes (no longer allowed in circulation since often used by organized crime to launder money).

Police told El Pais, a Spanish national daily, the nuns initially reported a 1.5 million Euro loss--40 years of savings, said Santa Lucia’s Mother Superior.

The convent flatly denies this, according to its attorney and says the loss is little more than 400,000 Euros.

So, how much currency was in the bag?

Why horded?

The Mother Superior said it was difficult for nuns to travel to the bank.

Sister Isabel Guerra at her easel.
Yet, the convent’s lawyer, Jesus Garcia Huici, said the nuns only days before the theft had taken out a sizeable chunk of cash at their bank for local charities and the poor.

Sounds as plausible as it could be inconsistent.

With Spain suffering more a depression--not your garden variety Great Recession--the country struggles with 20.4 percent unemployment with a 47 million population.
On 1 March, after apparently learning that stashing so much cash in a plastic bag in your wardrobe suggests you’re guilty of tax evasion, the damage figure plummeted to about 400,000 Euros, police told El Pais.

It’s really not just 40 years of savings, clarified the Mother Superior.

No, she insisted, most of the cash came from Spain’s “painting nun,” 64-year-old Sister Isabel Guerra and sales of her oil paintings.
Galeria de Arte Sokoa in Madrid represents her, noting on its website that Sister Isabel paints with a knife, not brushes.

The controversey growing over the theft must deeply disturb Sister Isabel, a nationally recognized maestro, sometimes compared to Diego Velazquez, a member of Spain's fine arts elite.

At age 23, she entered the convent, already commercially successfull and a self-taught painter.

Every three to four years she exhibits and sells out, her gallery reports.

El Mundo said Sister Isabel rarely paints religious themes.
 Sister Isabel Guerra, 100 x 73 cm.

She's paints portraits and Spanish rural scenes. 

The artist told El Mundo a few years before the theft she tries to "open windows through which she can enter a reflection of that light which is love, truth and beauty."

What does an original Sister Isabel go for?

Blogger Marlin Barillas, a former US diplomat and free-lance translator in Houston, Texas (Speroforum), wrote Friday that her paintings cost between 2,500 – 12,000 Euros, discussing the same heist.

El Pais and El Mundo , however, claimed Sister Isabel earns up to 40,000 Euros for one picture. The gallery remained below the radar, typically silent and discrete.

Spanish tax authorities became keenly interested in this confusion and weren’t far behind the Guarda Civil, the national police, last Friday (11 March) opening an investigation to find just how much currency was taken and its source.

The mystery remains unsolved, although police reportedly arrested two suspects for questioning.

They have not been charged at the time my posting this.

Rock on and practice peace and love.

Stefan, the ArtTraveler (TM).

Interested in a walking vacation or sculpture or mosaics workshop in Andalusia, see: and

Take a 28 second video journey to Southwark, London near Tate Modern to a successful Tube soprano sax performance artist. 

No comments:

Post a Comment