Stolen Van Gogh Paintings Found “By Chance”

By Gabriele Cruciata

Back in 2016, the Italian police discovered two stolen Van Gogh paintings in a suspected mafia boss’ house. An anonymous source told The Stand that officers weren’t looking for the missing paintings.

On the 7th December 2002 two men climbed a wall of the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. They broke in through a window and stole two paintings that hung on a wall on the first floor. Fourteen years later the Italian police found the paintings in Castellammare di Stabia, 25 kilometres away from Naples. “Those paintings were found by chance during an anti-mafia inspection,” tells an anonymous policeman The Stand.

“By chance”, a key expression. “That day we were called to inspect a mafia boss’ villa. We didn’t expect to find those masterpieces at all”, the source said. Raffaele Imperiale, the suspect, had collected Van Gogh’s works for many years. He’s on a trial now. His lawyers are trying to get his sentence reduced because of his collaboration with the police. But our scoop provides information not known to the judges, who are ruling in the Imperiale trial.

One of the stolen paintings is titled View of the Sea at Scheveningen (1882) and it is “one of the first works Van Gogh made without the supervision of his teacher Anton Mauve,” says Axel Rüger, Van Gogh Museum’s Director. The other one, Congregation Leaving the Reformed Church in Nuenen (1884), “was made while the painter was living with his parents, therefore this work is of biographical value as well” he adds.

After the two paintings were returned to Amsterdam two years ago, the museum organised a press conference. On that occasion, Rüger declared: “We can close the door on this particularly painful period in our history. I’ve been looking forward tremendously to the day when we could show these two gems to our public again. That day has come, and they finally have a face and a voice again.”

The Italian policeman told The Stand Imperiale could not have easily sold the paintings on the illegal market. “People who steal artworks are generally excellent thieves, but terrible art critics” he said. “They usually don’t know how important some documents are. Nobody will illegally buy a Van Gogh without the documents stating the painting is original”.