Over 150 artworks 'missing' from official Glasgow city collection

Paintings from as far back as the 1600s are currently listed among 30 items thought to have been stolen from the civic archives.

John Byrne painting of Billy Connolly’s banjo among artwork ‘missing’ from Glasgow collection

An original John Byrne painting of Billy Connolly’s banjo bequeathed to the city of Glasgow by the artist is among more than 150 artworks missing from its official collection.

Paintings from as far back as the 1600s are currently listed among 30 items thought to have been stolen from the civic archives – which comprise more than 25,000 objects.

Works from the likes of Carlo Maratti, Sebastien Vrancx and Cornelis Vroom are currently “unlocated” by experts from Glasgow Life during their most recent inventory.

One of Vrancx’s pieces, entitled The Four Seasons, sold at auction in London for an estimated £1.4m in 2015.

Glasgow Life said police had been “notified about historic thefts” adding an ongoing itemisation process was “uncovering objects previously recorded as unlocated”.

The John Byrne work was produced in 1974. (Image: Glasgow Museums)

A Freedom of Information (FOI) request uncovered the 1974 Byrne work, which had been gifted to the city in 1977, had been missing for some time.

The painting features Connolly’s instrument propped up against a wall while the silhouetted figure of the comic casts a shadow over it.

It was produced shortly before his split from The Humblebums to launch a solo career.

A total of 129 pieces are listed as missing from the collection according to data from the FOI, the oldest of which is thought to be an unidentified “heraldic panel” dating from the 14th century.

Vrancx’ ‘Landscape with Figures,’ thought to be from around 1513 and the Maratti artwork ‘The Madonna and Child Surrounded by Angels,’ estimated to have been painted in the 1640’s are also currently “unlocated”.

A spokesperson for Glasgow Life said: “The process of recording, cataloguing and caring for the Glasgow Museums Collection has improved significantly since it was founded in the 1860s.

“As part of the major museums capital projects in Glasgow over the last 20 years, the storage of the collection has also been improved.

“This process has enhanced security of the collections, preventing theft from storage in the last 20 years, and reduced the number of objects recorded as unlocated, even temporarily.”

They added: “Where historic thefts have been conclusively identified, we have robust processes in place including notifying the police adding the items to the Art Loss register which makes it difficult to secure sales at legitimate auctions.”