Oriental jades and bronzes were among the estimated $300,000 worth of art objects stolen last weekend from the Manhattan town house of Robert H Ellsworth. An expert in Chinese Ming dynasty antiques, the police reported yesterday.
Police officials and other art experts said Mr. Ellsworth - one expert called him “the king of Ming” - was the latest victim in a surge in thefts of Oriental art as the art has soared in value in recent years.
“The thieves took the most expensive small material, the stuff I lock up in the vault.”
A chain-smoking burglar used an acetylene torch to slice through the thick steel walls of the mansion’s double-doored six foot high vault. Mr. Ellsworth, a 47-year-old bachelor returned home Sunday afternoon for a evening out with Claudette Colbert and discovered the theft.
A well-placed police informant asserted that the alarm system had been switched off.
Two of the items stolen were Oriental pearl studs for his evening shirts. With the studs gone Mr Ellsworth had to wear a business suit when he went out with Miss Colbert instead of evening clothes as he had planned.
The police valued the coins at between $50,000 and $100,000, but the museum employee said last night that their value might be even higher. The robbery began at 1pm, the museum’s opening time.
In their apparent haste to depart, the gunmen overlooked a fifth case containing gold coins. They also left untouched an even more valuable collection of paper money. Other major collections were locked in vaults and were not disturbed.
During most of the robbery, an employee reported, the doorbell was being repeatedly rung by an indignant party of three visitors who were upset that the four men who came out had been allowed in while they had been forced to wait outside.
excerpt from NYT 6/24/77