9/30/2016

Two Stolen Van Gogh's Recovered


The Wall Street Journal is reporting that two Van Gogh works, stolen from the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam in 2002 have been recovered.

The Wall Street Journal reports
Two Vincent van Gogh paintings stolen from Amsterdam’s Van Gogh Museum in 2002 have been recovered by anti-mafia police in Italy.

The works, “Seascape at Scheveningen” (1882) and “Congregation Leaving the Reformed Church in Nuenen” (1884-85), were recovered during a police operation focusing on a mafia gang involved in international cocaine trafficking, police in Naples said Friday. The total value of assets seized by police was €20 million ($22.4 million).

“We know well that international drug traffickers, after accumulating illicit cash, try to invest it either in the legal economy or to acquire new assets, as happened with these extraordinary works of art that were recovered,” said Giorgio Toschi, commanding general of the Italy’s Guardia di Finanza, a police force dedicated to investigating financial crimes.

“We have been waiting for this moment for 14 years,” said Van Gogh Museum Director Axel Rüger. “Naturally the only thing you want is to take them straight home with you.”

The works are in “relatively good condition,” the museum said. The frames of both paintings had been removed and the corner of “Seascape at Scheveningen,” the museum’s only example of a painting from Van Gogh’s period in The Hague, suffered some damage. It is unclear when the works will be returned to the museum.

The paintings were taken by two thieves in an audacious December 2002 break-in, and were valued at a combined €4 million at the time. According to Dutch court documents, the duo used a ladder to enter the museum through its roof. In 2004, the two 30-something men were given prison sentences of 4 and 4½ years.

Christopher Marinello, chief executive of London-based Art Recovery Group, said its ArtClaim database includes about 34 Van Gogh works reported as stolen. The Art Loss Register has about 200 Van Goghs reported as stolen, lost or with authenticity issues. “It’s encouraging news that after all this time important paintings can still be located in the criminal world,” he said. “The criminal world knows there’s value in holding stolen artwork.”

Nienke Bakker, curator of Van Gogh paintings at the Van Gogh Museum, called the works “irreplaceable.” “Seascape at Scheveningen” is one of just two seascapes Van Gogh painted in the Netherlands and an important example of his early painting style, she said.

Two years after completing that work, the artist began “Congregation Leaving the Reformed Church in Nuenen” as a gift for his ailing mother. When his father died in 1885, he reworked the painting, adding a group of mourners in front of the church. “It’s a very emotionally charged picture,” said Ms. Bakker.
Source: The Wall Street Journal 


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