Fifteen large paintings celebrating the final journey of Christ are stolen.

Ben Stahl sitting in front of a painting, wearing a white shirt and red spenders, facing the camera.

Ben Stahl

Ben hanging up a large painting in a museum showroom

Ben displayed his paintings in a museum

CASE DETAILS

The artist Ben Stahl was born in Chicago in 1910. As a young man, he honed his skills on beautiful illustrations for books and magazines. Norman Rockwell once wrote in a letter to Ben, saying: “The rest of us are just illustrators. But you are among the masters.”

10 empty frames in a museum showroom

All his paintings were stolen from the museum

At the height of Ben’s career, the Catholic Press commissioned him to paint the Stations of the Cross for a special edition of the Bible. The 14 small paintings were so popular that Ben decided to paint them again on a much larger scale. David Stahl remembers his father’s work:

“He spent two years painting these paintings. There was something very special going on while he was painting them, because when he did the face of Christ or the head of Christ, he pulled it off in 30, 40 brush strokes, without ever having to do it over again. He was really amazed at that.”

In November of 1966, with the paintings completed, Ben opened the Museum of the Cross so the public could enjoy his work. To David, the exhibit was an unforgettable experience:

“It was almost holy. Just the atmosphere of the museum, people would come out with tears in their eyes. It was very moving for a lot of people.”

Then, in 1969, 10 days after Easter, thieves broke in. Somehow, they knew that there were no security guards on duty and no alarm system in place. Instead of cutting the canvases out, the thieves painstakingly removed each staple, then rolled the paintings up and made a clean getaway. According to Sarasota Sheriff’s Department, Captain John Townsend:

“There had to be at least three to four people to do this. And we felt that they were probably in there a minimum of four hours.”

What happened to Ben Stahl’s paintings? In 1987, Ben died without ever finding out. His children have offered a reward for their safe return. The statue of limitations has run out on this theft, so anyone who might have unknowingly bought the stolen paintings would not be prosecuted.


Watch this case now on Amazon Prime in season five with Robert Stack and in season eight with Dennis Farina. Also available on YouTube with Dennis Farina. Various seasons available now on Hulu.

SUBMIT A TIP

 

6 Comments

  1. Cass

    If the frames were kept as evidence can’t they go back with the new advances in technology and reexamine them?

    Reply

  2. Linda

    Where can I find a bible with these illustrations in it.

    Reply

  3. Cathy

    Beautiful paintings that should be viewed by the public!!! The family should donate them to the art institute of Chicago if they are ever found!!!

    Reply

  4. Anonymous

    I Get 3 places, are the paintings, I see one in a dentest office given as a gift, I see 5, family relation of the robbers, possible brother in law, 2 have been sold art auction, thay have closed auctions, to sell the stolen works of art, since the 70’s they been doing it,

    Reply

  5. Travis Logerwell

    I think that someone is covering the seine of this crime. I have read about this and the question is who doing it and how? There has also been a saying that the paintings are in a volt at the Myami Art museum but no one has taken it to the point of view to see if they are ther the best thing to do is to get Ben’s Stahl’s oldest son and have him look at the paintings to see if they are his fathers paintings.

    Reply

  6. VALERIE TOWNSEND

    I THINK YOU EVER STOVE THE BEN STAHL PAINTINGS SHOULD BE FOUND NOW AND IF THEY STILL HAVE THE PAINTINGS THEY SHOULD RETURN THEM ARE BE IN JAIL FOR LIFE WITH PERROE. OR NO RELEASE

    Reply

Leave a Reply to Cathy Cancel reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

You are now leaving Unsolved.com and heading to our shop at: unsolved.shop.
Click HERE to continue.