Famous portraits by Czech artist Gottfried Lindauer have been taken from an Auckland gallery.
The two paintings, which were painted in 1884, were taken from inside the glass window at the International Art Centre in Parnell.
The two paintings, one of Chieftainess Ngatai–Raure and and the other of Chief Ngatai-Raure, were due to be auctioned in the coming weeks. Their estimated value was between NZ$350,000 to NZ$450,000 each.
New Zealand police said the theft occurred at 4am on Saturday.
Police were concerned the paintings may be smuggled out of New Zealand. They had found the vehicle used to ram the window and were searching for another.
Such heists were usually conducted by opportunists looking to make quick money but the distinctive nature of the portraits would make that very difficult.
Jackson said border police and Interpol would have been alerted to keep a lookout for the stolen portraits but there was a risk they could already have suffered damage.