– Five paintings by British artist Francis Bacon worth more than $33.5 million were stolen from an apartment in Madrid, the newspaper El Pais reported Sunday.

The theft, one of the largest in Spain, took place in June, but had been kept secret by investigators. The thief or thieves remain unidentified.

The theft took place in one of the most secure neighborhoods of Madrid, close to the upper house of Parliament.

The stolen paintings had been inherited by a friend of the artist. The art collector was apparently away for a brief period when the thieves broke into the apartment, El Pais reported.

They managed to turn off the burglar alarm and take off with the paintings without a trace.

An expert told the newspaper that the thieves would have a difficult time selling the paintings, as the pool of potential buyers is very small.

Bacon, who died in 1992 at 82, was one of the most important artists of the 20th century. His paintings are auctioned at record prices.

In November 2013, Bacon’s triptych, “Three Studies of Lucian Freud,” sold in New York for $142.4 million, Christie’s auction house said. The painting depicted Bacon’s friend and rival, Lucian Freud, sitting on a wooden chair against a two-tone background.

Tribune News Service