THE THEFT of a painting from a garage in Old Walcot has left its creator devastated.

Artist Maria Holohan said the picture – titled “The Floating Woman” – had been earmarked to hang in her sisters’ new house in Wanborough.

“She’s very upset,” Maria, 35, said.

The large, five foot tall painting was one of several items nabbed by thieves late in the early hours of Monday July 24 at the semi-detached home in the Parklands area of Walcot.

The thieves smashed the window to Maria’s garage, breaking in and ransacking the contents. They made off with the painting, two A4-size prints, a men's Cube Attention mountain bike, a women's Carrera Vengeance mountain bike and bottles of wine.

“It was about midnight," she said. I heard a noise outside. It sounded like a gunshot or a popping. That was when they broke the glass of the garage window.”

But on a residential street, Maria and her partner weren’t sure whether the noise was suspicious – or simply another resident in their own garage.

“My partner looked out the window. We didn’t think too much of it. I did hear something else – it sounded like a garage door opening.”

The couple only discovered the thefts the next morning, when they found their garage door left open.

“They had ransacked everything. They went through pretty much every box.”

Despite the theft of other items, the painting is the one Maria is keenest to see returned.

“It’s really important to me.”

The mixed-media piece, made using paint, newsprint and other textiles, was part of the woman’s final-year exhibition at art college in 2006. The painting was in a white frame.

Maria, who currently works at Swindon Borough Council, studied art at Swansea Metropolitan University – now part of the University of Wales.

She exhibited the piece, which shows a hooded girl with a bird, at the Washington Gallery in Penarth in 2008. The painting was part of a university art project, looking at mental health problems.

“It was really upsetting. I feel like somebody has been in our home.”

Maria had had homes broken into in the past, she said – but this one was different.“With this it really does feel quite personal.”

The artist urged anyone who has seen the painting for sale or abandoned to report it to the police.

Wiltshire Police confirmed that they were investigating the alleged thefts. Maria said forensic officers had visited her home the morning that she reported the incident.

Anyone with information about the stolen painting should contact police on 101 or anonymously, via Crimestoppers, on 0800 555 111.