Painting Stolen From College Show : Art: The 17-Century Dutch work by Gerard Hoet was loaned by a local businessman.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A 17th-Century Dutch painting, worth at least $50,000 and possibly much more, was stolen Monday afternoon from an art gallery at Antelope Valley College in Lancaster, college officials said.

The work by Gerard Hoet, a Dutch neoclassicist, was among 21 oil paintings owned by a local businessman that were being featured in the exhibit of European masters at the college. The theft took place between 1:50 and 1:55 p.m., as art students and other visitors moved in and out of the gallery, officials said.

Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department burglary detectives were investigating.

Someone apparently removed the painting, "Nymphs Gathering Flowers in a Landscape," from the wall and simply walked out of the gallery with it, officials said.

College President Allan Kurki said the exact value of the painting, which was 2 feet square, had not been determined because officials were unable to reach the owner, K.R. McDonald.

"I know it's more than $50,000 and it's probably closer to $100,000, at least," Kurki said. He closed the exhibit, which opened Wednesday and featured works by notable European artists, including the Italian Renaissance painter Tintoretto.

"It was very valuable but it was not the most valuable painting," said college spokesman Steve Standerfer, who called the exhibit "one of the most prestigious shows we've had there."

The paintings were watched during the day by a student gallery assistant and faculty members, and security guards checked the gallery periodically, gallery Director Pat Hinds said. A burglar alarm was also installed, Hinds said, but the alarm was set to work only when the gallery was closed.

"I believe security was sufficient," Hinds said. "It happened very quickly."

Hinds did not know the exact date of the painting, but said it was before 1700. Hoet, a painter and printmaker, lived between 1645 and 1733.

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