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