Stolen Van Gogh paintings recovered by Italian anti-mafia police
Works were taken from Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam in 2002 by Hannah McGivern
Anti-mafia police in Naples have recovered two Van Gogh paintings that were stolen from the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam 14 years ago. The early works, View of the Sea at Scheveningen (1882) and Congregation Leaving the Reformed Church in Nuenen (1884-85), were discovered in a house in Castellammare di Stabia, on the coast near Naples. Investigators traced the property to Raffaele Imperiale, the leader of a drug-trafficking ring of the Camorra, the Neapolitan mafia, the Italian newspaper La Repubblica reports.
Experts from the Italian culture ministry and a delegation from the Van Gogh Museum have confirmed that the works are genuine. They were taken by thieves who broke in through the roof of the Amsterdam institution during the early hours of 7 December 2002.
View of the Sea at Scheveningen, a stormy seascape, was painted en plein air by Van Gogh at the eponymous fishing village near the Hague, soon after he began experimenting with oils. The Dutch artist dedicated Congregation Leaving the Reformed Church in Nuenen to his mother and pastor father, with whom he lived in the Nuenen vicarage from 1883 to 1885.
“The outcome of this investigation confirms how interested criminal organisations are in works of art which they use both as a form of investment and a source of funds,” said the Italian culture minister Dario Franceschini in a statement.
UPDATE: The paintings were discovered without frames and in a relatively good condition with some signs of damage, according to a statement from the Van Gogh Museum. It is not yet known when the works will return to the museum, as the criminal case is still ongoing in Italy. “We have been waiting for this moment for 14 years,” said the director of the museum, Axel Rüger. “And naturally the only thing you want is to take them straight home with you. We will have to exercise a little bit more patience, but I am convinced that we can count on the support of the Italian authorities.”