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

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

  • noahr-ste
    4/21/2017 - 01:27 p.m.

    People steal famous paintings for one key reason. They are worth a lot of money to sell on the black market. In addition, the work of Van Gogh is very valuable because how good he is.

  • emilyb2-bur
    5/23/2017 - 07:58 p.m.

    People would steal such a famous painting because the painting is worth a lot of money and the people in this world are selfish .I think the person that stole it wanted to make money off of it because they know it is worth a lot of money.

  • Parkert-dav
    9/18/2017 - 02:44 p.m.

    In response to "Stolen Van Gogh paintings returned to museum ," I agree that it is a miracle One reason I agree is that they may never have found the paintings if they did not have a mobster bust. Another reason is that the painting is worth millions and is surprising that it was not sold. It says in the article that these paintings are worth millions . A third reason is that if it was stolen in 2002 then it was missing for 16 years then you would not be that hopeful.i am glad that the paintings are back , I think and hope they will be there for many more years.

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