A sketch by surrealist artist Salvador Dali has been stolen from the lobby of New York’s notorious Rikers Island jail.
Staff at the men’s prison noticed it had been taken from its usual position and replaced with a crude replica during the weekend, despite a 24-hour guard in the area.
“It is something that they see every day and something didn’t look right about it on Saturday,” said Tom Antenen from the New York Correction Department.
The original, believed to be worth £330,000 (€481,690), depicts Jesus Christ on the cross in red and black ink.
Investigators are baffled as to how the large painting – which measures 4ftx3ft could have been removed unnoticed.
Police are unable to even pinpoint when the painting could have been stolen and replaced by the fake, which was stapled to the back of the display case.
Dali drew the sketch, in 1965 as a favour to then-Correction Department commissioner Anna Moscowitz Kross.
At the bottom of the picture is a message from the artist, who was never known for correct spelling: “For the inmates dinning room on Rikers Island. Dali.”
It hung in the inmate’s dining area for 16 years before being displayed in the jail’s lobby.
The original work’s large gold frame also disappeared from the locked display case.
Mr Antenen said the copy would be removed from the display case as evidence. He said the department was investigating the theft and trying to determine who would have had access.
“You can’t rule anything out at this point,” he said.