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Nancy Drew #899: The Case of the Missing Munches

Stolen Munch paintings recovered


OK, call this "national arts news" week in the Arts News column, but here's another item of no local significance whatsoever that nevertheless bears noting--since it involves one of the most famous and reproduced pieces of art in the world.

In a heist movie sort of manner, two paintings by late 19th-century Expressionist artist Edvard Munch--The Scream and Madonna--were stolen by masked gunmen from the Munch Museum in Oslo, Norway, in August of 2004, while the museum was actually open. The high profile art theft didn't lose its cinematic quality in the intervening two years. Local police arrested six suspects and got convictions for three in the theft earlier this year, and are purported to have been negotiating for the paintings' return ever since. On August 31, the paintings were finally recovered, although police are not saying how the valuable paintings--their combined value is almost $200 million--were recovered or what led to up the recovery, only that it happened somewhere around Oslo.

It has been reported by Norwegian media, though not substantiated by authorities, that there was a connection between a bank robbery in Stavanger and the Munch theft months later, possibly organized to direct police attention away from the earlier heist that involved several million dollars and the death of a police officer.

The recovered pieces have not been finally authenticated, but it is expected that they are the missing Munch paintings. Both pieces are said to have sustained some damage, but nothing extensive or beyond restoration.