Stolen Rembrandt turns up in church office

The Rembrandt sketch stolen on Saturday night in a "well-thought-out, well-executed theft" has been found and recovered from an Episcopal church in Encino, California.

The piece, called "The Judgment," was stolen from the Ritz-Carlton in Marina del Rey, but was quickly found on Monday when authorities received an anonymous tip that the artwork had been seen in Saint Nicholas Episcopal Church.

Deputies found the sketch in the office of Father Mike Cooper, but as of yet no one has been arrested in association with the theft.

Owners, the Linearis Institute have confirmed that the piece is theirs.

"We have the Rembrandt at the station evidence lockup ... We are now seeking to authenticate it is a Rembrandt with other sources," said sheriff's spokesman Steve Whitmore.

Authorities also plan to release a sketch and images of a person thought to be involved in the heist.

Whitmore details that the Rembrandt was stolen between 9:20 and 9:35pm. when a curator was distracted by a guest.

"When the curator turned back to the Rembrandt, it was gone," Whitmore said.

Experts note Rembrandt pieces as some of the most commonly stolen works of art, due to Rembrandt's notoriety as well as the high value of the pieces. The only works more commonly stolen are those by Picasso.

Most however have been recovered. Thieves are usually caught or will return works in an effort to claim reward money when they are not able to sell them. Thefts of famous works of art are usually highly publicised, making it hard for the thieves to find buyers.

According to Anthony Amore, chief investigator at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston and co-author of a book called "Stealing Rembrandts", 81 Rembrandt thefts have been documented in the past 100 years.

"Stealing Rembrandts" co-author Tom Mashberg notes that 700 sketches have been determined by experts to be works of Rembrandt.