Van Gogh paint­ings stolen from Am­s­ter­dam found in Italy

Malta Independent - - WORLD -

Ital­ian po­lice have re­cov­ered two Van Gogh paint­ings stolen dur­ing a dra­matic raid on an Am­s­ter­dam mu­seum in 2002.

The works were re­cov­ered from the Naples mafia, they said.

The Van Gogh mu­seum in Am­s­ter­dam said the works were found dur­ing a “mas­sive, con­tin­u­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tion” by Ital­ian prose­cu­tors and or­gan­ised crime of­fi­cials.

The paint­ings were taken when thieves used a lad­der and sledge­ham­mers to break into the mu­seum.

They were among as­sets worth mil­lions of eu­ros seized from a Camorra group linked to co­caine traf­fick­ing, Ital­ian re­ports said. La Repub­blica said they had been found in a house at Castel­lam­mare di Stabia, near Pom­peii.

The theft of the two works, de­scribed as price­less, led to crit­i­cism of se­cu­rity at the world’s ma­jor art mu­se­ums.

The thieves broke into the mu­seum through the roof dur­ing the night of 6-7 De­cem­ber 2002 and used sledge­ham­mers to break a first-floor win­dow.

They took the paint­ings off the walls of the main ex­hi­bi­tion hall. Ex­perts were baf­fled at the time of the theft be­cause guards had been on patrol and in­fra-red se­cu­rity sys­tems were in place.

Nei­ther work was in­sured at the time, and both were on loan to the Van Gogh mu­seum from the Dutch gov­ern­ment. Two Dutch ci­ti­zens were jailed for theft but al­ways main­tained their in­no­cence.

The mu­seum said it was so far un­clear when the works would be re­turned to Am­s­ter­dam but in a state­ment it said they ap­peared to be in “rel­a­tively good con­di­tion”.

Vin­cent Van Gogh (1853-1890) is widely con­sid­ered the great­est Dutch artist af­ter Rem­brandt.

Seascape at Schevenin­gen was one of only two seascapes he painted while he lived in the Nether­lands.

It shows a foam­ing, stormy sea and thun­dery sky, and was painted in 1882 while he was stay­ing in The Hague.

Con­gre­ga­tion Leav­ing the Re­formed Church at Nue­nen (1884) was painted for Van Gogh’s mother, but also partly for his fa­ther, who had be­come a pas­tor at the church in 1882. When his fa­ther died in 1884, Van Gogh added church­go­ers in­clud­ing a few women wear­ing shawls used for mourn­ing. Van Gogh com­mit­ted sui­cide in France in 1890. The 2002 Van Gogh mu­seum raid was one of a se­ries of thefts that shocked the art world.

Two years later, two Ed­vard Munch mas­ter­pieces, The Scream and Madonna, were seized by armed men who raided the Munch mu­seum in Oslo.

Sev­eral men were jailed and the paint­ings later re­cov­ered af­ter painstak­ing de­tec­tive work in 2006.

An­other ver­sion of The Scream was stolen from the Na­tional Art Mu­seum in Oslo in 1994 and that too was later re­cov­ered in a st­ing op­er­a­tion by UK de­tec­tives.

Ear­lier this year, four paint­ings out of a haul of 24 stolen from a Dutch gallery in 2005 were re­cov­ered in Ukraine.

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