Stolen Van Gogh Paintings Found In Italy Fourteen Years After Daring Heist

Fourteen years ago, two Vincent Van Gogh paintings, worth over $100 million, were stolen from an Amsterdam museum. They have now been recovered in Italy. Wrapped in cloth, the paintings were housed by one of the biggest Italian organized crime groups.

The BBC reports that the priceless works of art were discovered near Pompeii, in the picturesque seaside town of Castellammare di Stabia. This is where the drug smuggling, Amato Pagano clan, affiliated with the Camorra mafia family, is located. Besides their involvement in the trafficking of cocaine, valuable works of art like this are not uncommon and often used as currency.

The head of the Italian police force conducting the investigation, Colonel Giovanni Salerno, spoke to CNN confirming that they immediately realized that this was an authentic Van Gogh when they unwrapped the paintings.

“Even before the authenticity was confirmed by the Dutch experts, we were sure of the painting’s authenticity because of markings on the back of the canvas that show where the painter cleaned his brush and tested the colors.”

The heist happened on the evening of December 6, 2002. The clever art thieves broke into the Van Gogh museum, using a ladder to get up to the ceiling and then used sledgehammers to break the glass of a first floor window to get inside and steal the priceless works of art.

The two painting stolen were the 1882 work, View Of The Sea At Scheveningen and 1884 painting Congregation Leaving The Reformed Church In Nuenen. The former was the only work Van Gogh completed while at The Hague for a three-year period of time. The later was a painting of his father’s church, where he was the pastor. The highly personal painting was made for his mother after his father died, it was reworked showing parishioners with mourning shawls.

Some of the other items seized in this huge bust included several apartments and villas, as well as an airplane all totaling over $22 million. This was in addition to the $100 million worth of Van Gogh paintings.

When he was alive, Van Gogh could not sell his work, yet now, his art is worth millions of dollars. He is considered to be the second most successful Dutch painter, just behind Rembrandt. Due to the financial temptation, much of Van Gogh’s work has been forged. Thus, the announcement of the discovery had not been made until both of these pieces were authenticated by the Van Gogh museum.

Axel Rüger, the director of the museum, told The Guardian that he had all but given up hope that the valuable paintings would ever be recovered. Now he has to be patient just a while longer as the Italian anti-mafia unit must complete their investigation before releasing the paintings back to the Dutch museum.

“After so many years I didn’t dare to think they would ever return. We’ve waited 14 years for this moment and of course we’d like to take them straight home. We’ll need to exercise a bit of patience, but I am convinced we can count on the support of the Italian authorities.”

This is not the only newsworthy Van Gogh story this year. Inquisitr has recently reported that a sketchbook of unpublished sketches by Van Gogh has been found and authenticated. Vincent Van Gogh, Le Brouillard d’Arles is scheduled to be published in book form in November. There is very little known about the highly-anticipated artistic content in this sketchbook, except that this work was done during the artist’s prolific period when he lived in Arles.

Are you a fan of the Dutch artist? Have you heard the stories about Van Gogh’s life and career?

[Featured Image by Getty Images]