Two Vincent Van Gogh paintings that were stolen from a museum in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, in an infamous art world heist more than a decade ago, have been recovered by Italian authorities in Naples with the help of a sting operation targetting organised crime.
The paintings, View of the Sea at Scheveningen, painted in 1882, and Congregation Leaving the Reformed Church in Nuenen, painted in 1884, were recently discovered after allegedly being hidden away in one of the houses of an international drug trafficker based in Castellammare di Stabia, near Naples, reports the Guardian.
An expert from the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam from where they were stolen in 2002, has confirmed the authenticity of these paintings.
Director of the Van Gogh Museum, Axel Rütger, said he wasn’t sure when the paintings could be returned to The Netherlands, as they are likely to be needed as evidence in the ensuing trial.
The frames have been removed and the seascape has a small patch of damage in the bottom left-hand corner, the museum said, but other than that, the paintings appeared to be in good condition.
Italian Culture Minister Dario Franceschini said the discovery was extraordinary and “confirmed the strength of the Italian system to fight against illicit trafficking of works of art”.
View of the Sea at Scheveningen is one of Van Gogh’s early paintings and depicts the beach resort close to The Hague. It was the only work in the museum’s collection from Van Gogh’s two years in The Hague and one of just two Dutch seascapes the artist made.
Congregation Leaving the Reformed Church in Nuenen is a smaller work that Van Gogh painted for his mother in 1884, and depicts a church in Brabant where his father Theodorus was attached as a preacher.
After his father’s death in 1885, Van Gogh revised the painting, adding figures of women wearing black shawls used in times of mourning.