A famous portrait of former British Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill has been stolen from the Fairmont Chateau Laurier in Ottawa, Canada. It has been replaced by a copy. The Hollywood-like flight was discovered on August 19, 2022, after an employee noticed that the frame of the portrait did not match that of other photographs in the hotel’s reading room.
Suspecting they had been robbed, hotel staff contacted Jerry Fielder. The estate director of the late Armenian-Canadian photographer Yousuf Karsh — who took the iconic portrait – immediately knew it was a fake. Fielder said, “I saw that Signature for 43 years. So it only took me a second to know that someone had tried to copy him.”
The investigators, who used photos submitted by the public, believes that the portrait was exchanged between December 25, 2021 and January 6, 2022. Geneviève Dumas, the hotel manager, suspects that it was a professional work since special tools are required to remove the frame from the wall.
The famous photo — nicknamed The roaring lion – was captured moments after Churchill was terminated addressing Canadian Parliament on December 30, 1941. The statesman was pulling on a cigar, which embarrassed Karsh vision of the portrait. After several attempts to to persuade Churchill to extinguish the cigar failed, the photographer approached him and snatched it from his hands.
“By the time I got back to my camera, he looked so belligerent he could have devoured me,” Karsh recalled later. ” It is at this moment instantaneous that I took the picture.”
Karsh, who died in 2002, went on to photograph hundreds of famous personalities, including former US President John F. Kennedy and famous scientist Albert Einstein. But The roaring lion remains one of his most famous works. In 2016, the iconic picture featured on Britain’s first plastic currency – a five pound note.
In 1992, Karsh donated all of his works to Library and Archives Canada. By its request, all impressions were declined. This made his work, including the stolen portrait, even more valuable. A signed print of The roaring lion fetched $62,500 at a Sotheby’s auction in 2020.
It may seem strange that a hotel has such a Dear masterpieces. But Karsh always had a strong link at the Fairmont Chateau Laurier. He presented his first exhibition there in 1936 and opened his studio there in 1972. In 1980, he and his wife permanently moved into the luxurious Hotel. At the time, the artist gifted the Fairmont Château Laurier several original prints of his work.
“We traveled so much that it was difficult to maintain a big house,” said Estrellita Karsh, now 92. New York Time. “I loved it because a hotel is like a small town.”
The Ottawa Police is investigating the flight. Meanwhile, Karsh’s other signed photographs have been removed from display until the hotel finds a way to secured them better.
Resources: Smithsonianmag.com, scmp.com, karsh.org, cbc.ca