Reading of the online newspapers today uncovered two stories relating to art theft or forgery and this particular one is an art theft I remember reading about back in 2002 when two Van Gogh paintings were stolen from an Amsterdam Museum and now they have finally been found. The second story relates to the ‘Moriarty of fakers’ in my separate blog.
The raid was apparently dramatic and the paintings stolen with the help of a ladder and sledgehammers used to break into the museum on the night of 6-7 December 2002 and the paintings removed from the walls despite security guards being nearby and infra-red security systems! Incredibly neither of the two works was insured despite being on loan from the Dutch government and valued at around £77 million. Two Dutch citizens were jailed at the time for the theft but the paintings have been found in the hands of the Amato-Pagano clan of the Camorra crime organisation of Naples – to put simply found in the hands of the mafia!
This particular criminal organisation are well known for their understated but good taste seen during raids on their homes and as yet it is not known exactly how they got hold of the paintings which apparently are in relatively good condition happily. Presently it is not known when the works will return to Amsterdam as they are currently with the specialist financial police in Italy.
The paintings were called Seascape at Scheveningen and Congregation Leaving the Reformed Church at Nuenen – the latter was painted for his mother and his father (who had become the Pastor at the church in 1882) with the churchgoers wearing mourning shawls after his father died in 1884. The seascape painting was one of just two seascapes Van Gogh did whilst living in the Netherlands and it almost seems ironic they found in the seaside town of Castellammare di Stabia near Pompeii.
Both paintings were seized during a seizure of assets from the Camorra crime organisation group – according to the article they have been linked to cocaine trafficking with several drug traffickers arrested in January. It is one of those arrested, one Mario Cerrone, who it seems told the investigating authorities about the two paintings and their subsequent recovery and suffice to say both Dutch and Italian ministers are very pleased at this news.
BBC. 30 September 2016. Van Gogh paintings stolen from Amsterdam found in Italy [online] [Date Accessed: 2 October 2016]. Available from: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-37516164