Police are investigating a foiled attempt to steal two Rembrandt paintings from England’s oldest public art gallery.
Police were called and following a search of the area officers challenged a suspect running from the scene.
In a statement the Metropolitan police said an officer gave chase and the intruder used a canister to spray them in the face with an unknown substance and as a result the suspect was able to get away.
The officer, who did not sustain serious injuries, located one of the paintings and, in cooperation with security staff, the other painting was also quickly found. Neither painting left the gallery grounds and remain in the gallery’s care.
Det Insp Jason Barber, from the Met’s Flying Squad, said: “This was an audacious attempted burglary and was clearly planned in advance.
“Two paintings in the exhibition were targeted and it was only down to the prompt response of gallery security staff and the courage and swift intervention of officers that these two works of art were not stolen. Thankfully both the paintings were quickly recovered and secured.
“Our inquiries now centre on finding whoever was responsible for this crime and I would ask anyone with information to call police.”
The gallery has not yet said which of the 35 Rembrandt paintings in the show were targeted. Among the paintings on display are The Pilgrims at Emmaus, 1648, from the Louvre; Philemon and Baucis, 1658, from the National Gallery of Art, in Washington; Christ and St Mary Magdalen at the Tomb, 1638, lent by the Royal Collection; and A Woman Bathing in a Stream, 1654, from the National Gallery.
In a statement it said: “The intruders were detected by the gallery’s robust security systems and, thanks to the immediate intervention of security staff and the swift response of the Metropolitan police, the paintings were secured at the scene.
“The exhibition and gallery will remain closed until further notice, to allow the police to conduct a full investigation into the incident.”
Dulwich picture gallery opened in 1817 and is the oldest public art gallery in England.