Update: The painting "Wendy and Me," which was stolen from the Rodrigue Gallery on Royal Street Tuesday, may have been found by four men walking along St. Louis Street near Royal Street late Tuesday evening, according to a statement issued by Garry G. Flot of the New Orleans Police Department.
Flot said the men saw two paintings leaning against the Omni Royal Hotel and believed one to be the missing Rodrigue work. The men took the paintings to the NOPD's Eighth District Station and gave them to the police.
Flot said the white male believed to have stolen the painting is still at large.
Someone stole a $250,000 painting by acclaimed Louisiana artist George Rodrigue on Tuesday afternoon, walking into a Royal Street gallery just after 3 p.m., lifting it off the wall and slipping out into the French Quarter in a heist that took about 10 seconds.
“It’s baffling,” Rodrigue’s son Jacques said after reviewing surveillance footage that showed a white, bearded man who appeared to be in his 30s committing the crime. “We really hope someone out there in the public recognizes this guy and is willing to turn him in.”
The stolen painting, called “Wendy and Me,” measures 24 inches by 30 inches. It depicts Rodrigue as the iconic blue dog he became known for painting, this time standing next to his wife, Wendy, who is in a wedding gown.
Rodrigue, who died in 2013 after a career that made him one of the state’s most recognized painters, painted the piece in 1997 for the couple’s wedding invitation.
“This piece is so important to our family,” Jacques said. “This is one of the most important pieces my dad ever painted.”
Gallery spokesman Andrew Freeman said the gallery put out word of the brazen theft immediately in hopes of retrieving the painting quickly.
Surveillance footage shows the man, wearing dark clothing and what appears to be a knit cap, looking once over his left shoulder before taking the painting off the wall and walking past an unsuspecting visitor looking at books on a nearby table.
Tuesday’s theft echoes a similar incident in 2010, when a man took two small, framed “blue dog” paintings off the gallery’s wall, put them in a shopping bag and walked out. The paintings were later found in the shed behind a New Orleans home, but the thief was never found.
Last month, two Gentilly men were arrested after trying to sell a stolen Rodrigue painting valued at $50,000 on Craigslist. Jacques Rodrigue said that painting had been stolen from a framer’s warehouse.
Tuesday’s theft occurred two hours before French Quarter residents held an anti-crime rally in nearby Jackson Square and a day after Buffa’s Lounge on Esplanade Avenue was robbed at gunpoint.
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