Stolen Van Gogh paintings returned to museum General Gianluigi D'Alfonso of the Italian Guardia Di Finanza, Jet Bussemaker, Minister for Education, Culture and Science and Van Gogh Museum director Axel Rueger, from left, pose in front of two stolen and recovered van Gogh paintings during a press conference in Amsterdam, Netherlands, Tuesday, March 21, 2017. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)
Stolen Van Gogh paintings returned to museum
Lexile

The Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam has welcomed home two paintings by the Dutch master, more than 14 years after they were ripped off the museum's wall in a nighttime heist.
 
"They're back," said museum director Axel Rueger. He called their return one of the "most special days in the history of our museum."
 
The paintings, the 1882 "View of the Sea at Scheveningen," and 1884-85 work "Congregation leaving the Reformed Church in Nuenen," were discovered last year by Italian police investigating suspected Italian mobsters for cocaine trafficking.
 
It wasn't an easy find. The two paintings were wrapped in cotton sheets, stuffed in a box and hidden behind a wall in a toilet, said Gen. Gianluigi D'Alfonso of the Italian financial police, who was on hand at the museum March 21 to watch the ceremonial unveiling.
 
They were found in a farmhouse near Naples as Italian police seized some 20 million euros worth of assets, including villas, apartments and even a small airplane. Investigators contend the assets are linked to two Camorra drug kingpins, Mario Cerrone and Raffaele Imperiale.
 
"After years shrouded in darkness, they can now shine again," Dutch Minister for Education, Culture and Science Jet Bussemaker said as an orange screen slid away to reveal the two paintings behind a glass wall.
 
Italy's Interior Minister Angelino Alfano said last year the paintings were "considered among the artworks most searched for in the world, on the FBI's list of the Top 10 art crimes."
 
They are now back on display at the museum before being taken to its conservation studio for repair, although they suffered remarkably little damage as thieves who had clambered up a ladder and smashed a window to get into the museum in 2002 ripped them out of their frames and fled.
 
"It is not only a miracle that the works have been recovered but it's even more miraculous almost that they are in relatively unharmed condition," Rueger said.
 
The museum director was on vacation when the call came last year from Italian authorities who believed they had recovered the paintings. He didn't celebrate right away; he'd had calls like this before.
 
"I was hopeful but also a little hesitant because over the course of the years we had multiple occasions when people phoned us, contacted us, claiming that they knew something about the whereabouts of the works and each time it was false, the trace went cold," he said. "So...the way has been peppered with disappointment."
 
But museum experts dispatched to Italy to check the authenticity of the works quickly turned Rueger's doubts into delight.
 
"It was something we had secretly been hoping for for all those years," he said.
 
The two small works are not typical of Van Gogh's later and better-known works, but are still vital pieces for the museum's collection, Rueger said.
 
The Scheveningen seascape, with a fishing boat and rough sea under a typically gray, cloudy Dutch sky, is one of Van Gogh's earliest works. It is the only painting in the museum's collection painted during his time in The Hague. It suffered a missing rectangular chip from the bottom left-hand corner.
 
The painting of the church in Nuenen portrayed the village where his parents lived.
 
"He had painted it as a gift to his mother, so it's a very personal and emotional connection," Rueger said.
 
Rueger said the paintings are now back for good at a museum, which is home to dozens of works by Van Gogh. His paintings fetch millions of dollars on the rare occasions they come up for auction.
 
"I'm very confident that everything is safe in the museum," he said.

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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
Why would anyone steal a famous painting?
Write your answers in the comments section below


COMMENTS (13)
  • kennyad-pay
    3/31/2017 - 09:52 a.m.

    I think that it was rude and disrespectful to the museum and Van Gogh that someone just stole his painting. But whoever, whether it was the person who stole it or someone else, it was a good, moral thing thing to do to return a painting that belonged to someone, that impacted someones life and was displayed for everything and im pretty sure that Van Gogh, appreciated the return of his art.

  • zakrym-ste
    3/31/2017 - 01:16 p.m.

    People would steal a famous painting because it is worth a lot of money. Van Gogh is one of the most famous artist of all time and his work is very valuable

  • nathanm14-ste
    3/31/2017 - 01:20 p.m.

    People would want to steal famous works of art for one obvious reason, which is money. As to why somebody would go through all of the trouble to steal these paintings and just leave them in the toilet is beyond me.

  • brycew-orv
    4/01/2017 - 01:34 p.m.

    Because they can try to sell it and get money or something

  • braydeng-atk
    4/04/2017 - 01:01 p.m.

    Well, if people got really desperate they would steal a famous painting to try and get some money. Most paintings are very famous and are worth a lot of money. The only reason someone would steal a famous painting is because of money.

  • kaileew-ste
    4/06/2017 - 11:28 a.m.

    Van Gogh paintings were stolen from a museum more than 14 years ago. They were just recently returned. I think it's amazing the robbers got away with it for such a long time.

  • vaneises-
    4/07/2017 - 08:36 a.m.

    Someone would steal a famous painting because it could sell for millions of dollars.

  • riyab-pay
    4/08/2017 - 12:07 a.m.

    Why wouldnt anyone steal a famous painting? These paintings are of such high value that if you sell them, youd make a large profit. Van Gogh is a very well known and renowed artist thus his paintings hold great value. The amount of money offered for such paintings is greater than one could imagine.

  • jareds-cel
    4/10/2017 - 10:06 a.m.

    Well, if people got really desperate they would steal a famous painting to try and get some money. Most paintings are very famous and are worth a lot of money. The only reason someone would steal a famous painting is because of money.

  • irisp-ste
    4/17/2017 - 10:03 a.m.

    I think it is pretty amazing that the paintings were found in such a random location. I never knew the paintings were lost until reading this. Since the individuals that stole the paintings were drug traffickers, I am guessing they could easily make money from the pieces of artwork.

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