Italy to Return Two Stolen Paintings to Van Gogh Museum
Two stolen paintings were released from a hold on Janaury 19 by the court in Naples. The works were recovered in October last year during a large-scale investigation on behalf of the Italian Public Prosecutions Department, conducted by a specialised Guardia di Finanza team. The court’s decision clears the way for the two paintings from the collection of the Van Gogh Museum to return to Amsterdam.
Van Gogh’s Seascape at Scheveningen (1882) and Congregation leaving the Reformed Church in Nuenen (1884/85) were stolen from the Van Gogh Museum in 2002. The two works appear to be in reasonably good shape after their 14-year travels, although both are missing their frames and show a few signs of damage. [Both works were found in the village of Castellammare di Stabia, near Naples, as part of a larger investigation into the Amato Pagano clan, an international drug smuggling group affiliated with the Camorra, the region’s notorious mafia family.]
The museum is busy preparing for the return of the canvases. It is not yet known when the paintings will be on display once more at the Van Gogh Museum, which will depend on the timing of the formal handover.
Museum Director Axel Rüger:
‘We have just heard that the judge has ordered the release of the two recovered Van Goghs. It’s great news: we can now focus fully on preparing for the paintings to come home. The two canvases will be formally handed over in the near future. A precise date hasn’t been fixed yet, but it’s expected to happen quickly.
On behalf of all my colleagues, I’d like to thank everyone who has worked so intensively and with such commitment to make this possible. We’re especially grateful to the Italian authorities for achieving something we almost thought would never happen. We can’t wait to place the two lost works back in our museum’s collection.’
Jet Bussemaker, Dutch Minister of Education, Culture and Science:
‘It is excellent news that the paintings will shortly be returning to the Netherlands. Everyone, both young and old, should soon be able to enjoy these works again at the Van Gogh Museum. My compliments to all the parties who have worked so hard to make this happen.’