Benvenuto Cellini, Salt Cellar, 1543

The Salt Cellar was stolen in 2003 from the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Austria.  

The Saliera was recovered on January 21, 2006 buried in a lead box in a forest near the town of Zwettl, Austria, about 90 km north of Vienna. The thief, Robert Mang,[6][7] turned himself in after police released surveillance photos of the suspect which were subsequently recognized by acquaintances.

Austrian police have recovered a $60m (£33.9m) 16th Century figurine stolen in 2003 called Saliera, or salt cellar, after a suspect turned himself in.

Experts established it was an authentic work by Florentine master Benvenuto Cellini, Austria's Press Agency said.

It was found on Saturday, buried in a wooden case near Zwettl, a town about 55 miles north of Vienna, police said.

The suspect turned himself in on Friday after police released photos of him identifying him as a suspect.

Authorities have been trying to track down the 25.4cm (10 inch) gold Saliera since it was stolen from a showcase at Vienna's Art History Museum.

'Mona Lisa of sculptures'

The daily Salzburger Nachrichten reported that the man was identified after being photographed by a surveillance camera.

He had been spotted buying a mobile phone which he used to send a text message to police during a failed attempt last year to ransom the figurine.

The suspect turned himself in after acquaintances told him he looked like the person being sought.

The museum said at the time that Cellini's piece was the sculpture equivalent of Leonardo da Vinci's 16th Century masterpiece painting the Mona Lisa.


Saliera depicts a male figure representing the sea and a female figure that represents the earth. A small vessel meant to hold salt is placed next to the male figure.

It was stolen after thieves smashed a window to get into the museum, police said. They then smashed a glass display case and took the sculpture.

The artwork was created between 1540 and 1543 on commission from King Francis I of France, commonly considered that nation's first Renaissance monarch.

It is 26 centimetres (10 inches) tall and is Cellini's only remaining authenticated gold work.


ort fray before the hearing should not be missed. The photographers rise rapidly above the other, then press but quickly and go. The audience act sensation saturated. Better than Natascha Kampusch had Robert Mang can not happen.The media have their true, unique heroine found and let them not as fast out of sight. The Saliera thief may his story sheepishly ducked yes tell, guiltily. The "Tank Buster-number" (Mang), probably the largest Kabinettstückerl the domestic detective story, like a sillier shoplifting comes as a cheap test of courage at one of the annual 365 days of the open showcase of Doctor Seipel in the Kunsthistorisches Museum.

How dramatic bad it was ordered to secure the treasures Mang noticed a few weeks ago, by chance, as he says. He was bland, it was raining, he joined an Italian travel group and visited the museum. "I was not about art, only to the young Italians," he asserts. The prosecutor does not find this very funny. Mang actually not.


Anyway, he marveled at the ancient motion detector. Such had been his company replaced 15 years ago now. And what else? No bulletproof glass, no interior fuse, no perimeter protection. On the contrary: A scaffolding, easy mountable as the Bisamberg (and in a fraction of the time), yet this beautiful and subtly lit up to the windows.

And then the rest was enough for an almost swampy May night in 2003 in a discotheque. "It's bad enough that I'm using 47 there still hanging around," he admits. (The judge nods.) But his wife had separated from him. And a serious illness gave him Wurschtigkeitsgefühle. "Because I wanted to know."

First, he climbed on a trial basis to the scaffold and reached easily in the upper floors. Then he got out of the car tool box the necessary equipment, climbed back up the facade, cracked the first window with on, struck the first-best case - and took therein pretty salt cellar with. The slump is no longer considered to have lasted a minute escape proved straightforward. In his neighborhood but he was looking for a half hour for a parking space. The gold plated thing he hid under his bed.

Salt cellar under the ground

In the morning news and soon in special programs he learned what he had stolen. This inspired his circulation. The feelings of the following weeks he called "panic state of emergency"."It is indeed an otherwise hardly the embarrassment of having to have something under his bed, which 30 million euros worth," he says. "You're right," says the judge. Of course, he could return the salt shaker. But he already felt better than it near his weekend home in the Waldviertel, "in a forest, in which I have nine years saw no man," buried. Newspaper reports took him to a very different idea. In detail, it has been described as the largest art thieves in history successfully extorted ransom. His two attempts were in good approach, the sum fit (ten million euros), but the transfer failed because of his fluttering nerves, because he saw in every passerby a policeman. After all, he had his photo taken by mistake by the secret camera when buying a SIM card. Soon after it was taken. Its future prospects? - The company just goes bankrupt. "It will be hard to start again with 50," he says. "With each week in jail I'll be more and more of a social event," he feels.

At least Wilfried Seipel witness makes for merriment in the hall. He still believes that the treasures were adequately covered in the Kunsthistorisches Museum. (Daniel Glattauer, THE STANDARD print edition, 08.09.2006)

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