The audacious theft last week of Leonardo da Vinci's Madonna of the Yarnwinder highlights the problems that insurers face when underwriting prized works.

Many of these precious and irreplaceable paintings are on public display. Yet this very fact clearly poses significant security issues. Prospective thieves are at liberty to come and go as they please, examine the security arrangements that are present and then commit the theft. The da Vinci thieves apparently just walked into the stately home and snatched the painting from a wall.

The ease with which such thefts can apparently be perpetrated is no doubt of great concern to underwriters. I would not be surprised if their reaction was to require a considerable tightening of security arrangements. But a balance needs to be achieved.

It would be utterly wrong if insurers required historic works of art to be locked away in safes for fear of being stolen. The general public must be allowed to see these great works and insurers should accommodate this in their specified security requirements. It would be a travesty if the work of the painters like da Vinci were effectively lost forever to the public because of insurers' need to make an underwriting profit.

James Buckingham

Send letters to: Insurance Times, 30 Cannon Street, London, EC4M 6YJ or email or fax 020 7618 3499