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Art Theft

They had arrived at Clarence House, his royal residence in London, in February 2017: a collection that would eventually comprise 17 magnificent works, including pieces by Picasso, Dalí, Monet, and Chagall, that humbled the prince with their power and provenance. A supreme arbiter of art, as both a lifelong collector and an artist himself, Charles listened eagerly as Malcolm Rogers, former curator of the National Portrait Gallery in London and retired director of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, explained the significance of two paintings by Sir Anthony van Dyck, England’s leading court painter in the 17th century, that were propped up against the royal residence’s wall. The prince, Rogers recalls, seemed “enthusiastic” to hear their glorious histories.

Rogers was well acquainted with the source of the paintings. They were on loan from James Stunt, the 38-year-old gold tycoon who has come to define decadence in contemporary London. The ex-husband of Petra Ecclestone, heiress daughter to Formula 1 billionaire Bernie Ecclestone, Stunt was known to buy 200,000 pounds’ worth of Cristal Champagne in a single evening at Tramp, London’s infamous members-only nightclub. His godfather was an alleged mob boss, his business partners’ offices had recently been raided by the police, and he traversed the city in a traffic-stopping fleet of luxury cars—part of his collection of 200 Rolls-Royces, Bentleys, Ferraris, and Lamborghinis—that made even the queen’s motorcade seem modest by comparison.

Stunt had also assembled a staggering collection of private art. In 2014, after he loaned five exceptional British paintings to the Boston museum, he told Rogers of his ambitions. “He wanted to put a collection together for his daughter to inherit, with a view to lending things to museums,” Rogers recalls. “He always presented himself as a very charitable and positive person, and he was wanting to support the Prince of Wales.”

With his latest gift, Stunt had succeeded in gaining the prince’s attention. Charles, thrilled with the paintings, knew that art of such stature deserved to be hung in a place of supreme honor. The guy pieces were soon dispatched to the destination closest to the prince’s heart: Dumfries House, the sprawling mansion on 2,000 acres in Scotland that Charles had renovated at a cost of more than 45 million pounds and turned into the headquarters for his personal charity, the Prince’s Foundation.

Read more on Vanity Fair:

https://www.vanityfair.com/style/2020/02/the-prince-charles-art-forgeries-royal-scandal/amp

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