On Friday, Sept. 30, 2016, two Van Gogh paintings worth millions of dollars that were recently recovered by Italian anti-Mafia police were displayed in Naples, Italy during a press conference. The two paintings are titled, “Seascape at the Scheveningen” and, “Congregation leaving the Reformed Church in Nuenen.” According to the Van Gogh Museum, they were found without their frames but are considered to be in “relatively good condition.”
The two stolen Van Gogh paintings that were recovered, each estimated at 50 million euros, are drawing much attention. Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s office has commented that the Prime Minister (PM) notified Mark Rutte, his Dutch counterpart, about results of the Anti-Mafia Police operation prior to his attending the Shimon Peres funder in Jerusalem.
Thieves stole the paintings from the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam by using a ladder to gain access to the roof from where they made their way to the main exhibit hall where dozens of Van Gogh paintings were on display. The thieves then escaped by sliding down a rope. The FBI ranked this as one the top ten “global art crimes.” Two men were later caught after DNA evidence linked them to the crime and were sentenced to four years in prison. The paintings remained hidden until this week.
The art was stolen from the museum in Amsterdam in December of 2002 and was hidden in the basement of a “farmhouse” near Naples, located not far from a mafia stronghold. The farmhouse is owned by Raffaelle Imperiale, who, Italian prosecutor Filippo Beatrice notes, is a “rich and powerful drug dealer.”
The recovery of the art was part of a police operation targeted at investigating the Amato Pagano clan, a group with connections to Camorra, one of Naple’s more well-known mafia syndicates. The actual raid occurred on Monday after Financial Police Col. Giovanni Salerno told investigators, looking into the group for international cocaine trafficking, there had been a tip that the paintings were there.
Italian prosecutor working with the anti-mafia operation, Maria Vittoria De Simone, told the press that Imperiale is “on the run” and is believed to be in the United Arab Emirates. Italian authorities are currently seeking extradition. Other assets of Imperiale’s have been seized including villas, farmland, apartments and planes estimated at a worth of 20 million euros. Video footage showed police removing mirrors in Imperiale’s home gym revealing a large underground area where an airplane was kept.
While the paintings have been found in “relatively good condition,” the curator who inspected the art did indicate that there was evidence of “some damage.” In an official statement from the museum, it was relayed that the painting depicting a seascape had suffered somewhat significant damage. Its bottom left corner has apparently “broken away.” The other painting only suffered “a few minor damages at the edges of the canvas.”
After being lost for 14 years, the two stolen Van Gogh paintings rest safely after being recovered. The director of Amsterdam’s Van Gogh museum told reporters, “It is a great for us today to see the works and to know that they are safe and that they are in safe hands.”
By Joel Wickwire
CNN Style: Stolen Van Gogh Paintings Found After 14 Years in Raid on Italian Mafia Group
Swissinfo.ch: Missing Van Gogh Paintings Turn Up in Italian Mafia
The Charlotte Observer: 2 Van Gogh Painting Recovered by Italian Anti-Mafia Police
Feature and Inline Image Courtesy of Art Gallery ErgsArt – by ErgSap’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Top Image Courtesy of Dennis Jarvis’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License