Chateau Laurier Believes Famous Churchill Portrait Swap Was ‘Professional’

Chateau Laurier says it was able to narrow down the time it believed the famous portrait of Sir Winston Churchill was stolen from the wall to between Christmas Day last year and January 6th.

The hotel asked the public for help yesterday after staff noticed the photo was not hung correctly over the weekend and an inspection revealed the portrait was a copy, not the original.

Photos taken by guests inside the hotel’s Reading Lounge confirm that the original was still hanging on December 25th, but photos taken just 12 days later show the forgery.

This famous image was taken by Ottawa photographer Yousuf Karsh during Churchill’s wartime visit to the Canadian Parliament in December 1941.

Kirsch lived at Chateau Laurier, where he had his studio for nearly 20 years. A collection of 15 of his portraits are displayed in the lounge and in his Kirsch suite, all pinned to the walls.

Geneviève Dumas, the hotel’s general manager, says a special tool was required to remove the frame.

“I pass by this frame every day and show it to my guests, so it was certainly professional.

The Karsch Estate was able to confirm that the portrait’s frame and signature were not original, Dumas said.

A portrait featuring Churchill glowing at the camera helped launch Kirsch’s career.

Kirsch recalled that the Prime Minister refused to put down his cigar for his portrait after his speech in parliament.

“Then I walked up to him and without warning but respectfully said ‘excuse me’ and pulled the cigar out of his mouth,” Kirsch recalled. Karsh website.

“When I got back on camera, he was so belligerent that he even devoured me. It was at that moment that I took the picture.”

That image of Churchill appears on the British £5 note and is often referred to as the “roaring lion”.

The hotel hopes to further narrow down the window and collect more photos to help investigators identify how and by whom the portrait was taken.

At the time of the theft, the hotel was relatively quiet due to COVID-19 Omicron wave restrictions.

Dumas asks guests who have stayed at Château Laurier, or who have visited during those 12 days, to send in photos of the Reading Lounge.

She also asks buyers to be on the lookout.

“Did someone try to sell you a picture of Winston Churchill? Well, we might be the ones who disappeared.”

Sarah Richie

canadian press