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The Spanish painter Francisco de Goya (1746 - 1828) created the oil painting “Portrait of Doña Antonia Zaraté” in 1806. The painting has the dimensions 103.5 x 82 cm. Goya was born in Fuendetodos, Aragón, Spain and served as court painter to King Charles III of Spain. and Charles IV. In the 1790s, he mainly created prints that he tried to sell on the open market. Some of his etchings have critically portrayed political and social events. He died at the age of 61 on April 16, 1828 in Bordeaux, France.
On April 26, 1974, a splinter group from the Irish Republican Army entered Russborough House. The terrorists gagged Sir Alfred Beit and his wife before stealing 19 works of art. Rose Dugdale was later identified as the leader of the art theft. Her motive was her boyfriend in prison. She needed money to force her to be released. Among the stolen paintings were works by Vélazquez and Vermeer's “Letter-writing lady with her maid”. All the stolen paintings were valued at eight million Irish pounds. After a short time, all of the paintings in County Cork were found. Rose Dugdale and her accomplices have been arrested.
In 1986 the Russborough House was again the scene of an art theft - this time by Martin Cahill, then underworld boss of Dublin and 12 other accomplices. They stole 18 paintings, including works by Vermeer, Metsu, Gainsborough and Rubens, and Goya's “Portrait of Doña Antonia Zaraté”. After the robbery, the police groped in the dark and lost track of the stolen masterpieces.
Seven years after the art theft, Goya's painting “Portrait of Doña Antonia Zaraté” with Vermeer's painting “Lady writing with her maid” was found near Antwerp in Belgium on September 1, 1993, when the police there arrested two Irishmen and one Yugoslav . The three men were driving two rental cars when the police stopped them. The police also found three Picasso drawings in the cars, a small oil painting by Edgar Degas, Gabriel Metsu's “Man writing a letter” and Antoine Vestier's “Princesse de Lamballe”. One year after this spectacular find, art thief Martin Cahill was shot by the IRA on August 18, 1994. It is unclear whether this murder is related to the recovered works of art.
After the repeated robbery, part of the Beit Collection from the Russborough House was handed over to the National Gallery in Dublin. Most of the works of art by the old masters can be seen here in the permanent exhibition in the specially created Beit wing.