Three incidents of artwork theft from a Baylor University academic building prompted the department of modern languages and cultures to remove more than 90 replica paintings from its walls.
Although two of the three pieces were anonymously returned this weekend, Baylor officials are unlikely to reset the aesthetic in the historical Old Main without heightened security.
The first painting was reported missing in January 2017, and another went missing in December, university spokeswoman Tonya Hudson said. A third was reported missing March 28.
Hudson said the second and third stolen paintings were left propped up against an exterior door to Old Main on Sunday, but Baylor police do not know who took or returned them. The stolen property is worth less than $1,000, and police are still searching for the first piece.
The crimes would likely be Class B misdemeanor theft of property.
The department’s interim chair, Michael Long, said each piece in the building corresponded with faculty members’ areas of study. The artwork is now stored in an undisclosed location.
“It’s very dramatic to walk in and suddenly see bare wall when there was always something that would catch your eye,” Long said. “It’s a very striking contrast.”
Long said he has discussed security enhancements with Baylor police. By the fall semester, the school may install cameras and anchor the prints to the wall, he said.
Officials also said news reports about the thefts, including a Baylor Lariat article published on Thursday, may have motivated someone to return the prints.
One of the stolen pictures returned Sunday was a print of “Bogatyrs,” a depiction of three knights by the Russian artist Viktor Vasnetsov created in 1898. Adrienne Harris, an associate professor of Russian, said her students were upset to learn the piece had been taken. The thief or thieves were probably unaware of its cultural significance, she said.
“The painting itself is part of the national revival of the 19th century when Russian artists and authors were very much interested in folklore,” Harris said.