Investigators have recovered a pair of “priceless” Van Gogh paintings stolen from the museum of the same name in Amsterdam in 2002, officials said on Friday.
The paintings, Seascape at Scheveningen (1882) and Congregation Leaving the Reformed Church at Nuenen (1884/85), had been damaged and were missing frames while stored in unsuitable conditions for the past 14 years, according to officials.
Still, officials said, the Dutch master’s artwork was in “fairly good condition.”
Italian authorities in Naples discovered the paintings during an ongoing large-scale investigation into organized crime in the area.
It was unclear where the paintings had been hidden and when they would be returned to the museum.
Nevertheless, the discovery of the paintings was greeted with joy by museum officials.
“These are the real paintings!” rejoiced Axel Ruger, director of the Van Gogh museum. “After all these years, you no longer dare to count on a possible return.”
In 2002, crooks reportedly used a ladder to climb onto the roof of the museum, then smashed a window with a sledgehammer to gain access to the gallery. They dodged patrolling security guards and bypassed infrared security sensors before sweeping the paintings and driving off undetected.
Two years later, Dutch art thief Octave Durham, also known as “The Monkey”, and a cohort were convicted of the crime, but the paintings were not found at the time.
The illustrations were created by Van Gogh early in his career. “Seascape” is made of real grains of sand that were lifted from the beach while Van Gogh was working. “Congregation” represents a church in the south of the Netherlands where the artist’s father was the pastor.
Known as one of the world’s greatest painters, Van Gogh is perhaps best known for cutting off part of his ear during a psychotic episode.
Born in the Netherlands in 1853, Van Gogh died young, broke and depressed at the age of 37 in France.
With AP wires