Dutch city celebrates as stolen masterpieces return home
The Dutch city of Hoorn erupted with joy on Friday as itwelcomedback five masterpieces recovered from a criminal gang in Ukraine after being snatched from the town’s museum in 2005.
“After 4,320 days ... yes we counted the days ... they are back!” an emotional museum director Ad Geerdink told hundreds of citizens who gathered at the Westfries Museum as the 17th- and 18th-century paintings were unloaded from a truck.
“Our heritage has returned to the museum where they belong, back in the city where they belong,” Geerdink said as thecrowdcheeredandclapped.
The five paintings were among24 Dutch “golden age” masterpieces and 70 pieces of silverware stolen from the museum in the northwest city on Jan 9, 2005.
At the time of their disappearance, the 24 paintings were valued at a total of 10 million euros ($11 million).
One of the recovered works, Isaak Ouwater’s 1784 piece entitled Nieuwstraat in Hoorn, valued at around 30,000 euros ($33,400), was handed back by an unsuspecting Ukrainian art buyer in May. But details over how the painting came into his possession remain vague.
The four other retrieved paintings, which were also found in Ukraine, are: APeasant Wedding by Hendrick Boogaert, Kitchen Scene by Floris van Schooten, Return of Jephta and Lady World by JacobWaben.
The museum has now launched a crowdfunding campaign to restore the five works, as spokeswoman Christa van Hees says they “have suffered a lot” in the past decade and “are in a terrible condition”.
After the works were snatched there was an intensive police investigation, but it was not until mid-2015 that the museumreceivedwordthatthe paintingsmaybe inUkraine.
Two men claiming to represent a pro-Kiev group say they had found the art in a villa in eastern Ukraine.
Art historian Arthur Brand, who played a major role in the paintings’ return, says the men initially priced the works at 50 million euros and then wanted 5 million euros for them.
“We were only prepared to give then 50,000 euros, which is a finders’ fee,” Brand says. So the negotiations collapsed.
Details remain unclear about the next move, but after intense behind-the-scenes work Ukraine announced in April it had recovered four of the paintings.
However, it did not give details of exactly how the works were retrieved, saying only they were “in the possession of criminal groups”.
Westfries Museum director Ad Geerding (left) and art historian Arthur Brand (right) celebrate after five paintings, stolen from the museum, are returned from Ukraine on Oct 7.