The Napoleon of Crime
Scotland Yard called him the the Napoleon of Crime. The Pinkertons called him the most remarkable criminal of them all. Adam Worth
started as a pickpocket in New York and eventually became one of the
greatest criminals of all time and the inspiration behind Sherlock
Holmes’ nemesis Professor Moriarty.
One of Worth’s famous thefts is considered the first modern art theft. In 1876 Adam Worth stole Thomas Gainsborough’s The Duchess of Devonshire
after it was recently sold at auction for 10,000 guineas, making it the
most expensive painting ever sold at the time. Worth kept the painting
until 1901, when the Pinkertons helped him ransom the painting back to
the Agnew & Sons gallery he stole it from (Agnew & Sons then
sold the painting to JP Morgan, who’s father had original intended to
buy the painting from Agnew before the theft). Worth intended to use
the ransom money to retire from his life of crime. He died one year later in 1902.
Listen to the story of the daring theft at The Association for Research into Crimes Against Art’s (ARCA) first podcast.