5 July 1998
ROME -- Three priceless art works, stolen six weeks ago in Rome, were successfully recovered today. The three works, Portrait of a Young Peasant and L'Arlesienne (Madame Ginoux) by Vincent van Gogh as well as Le Cabanon de Jourdan by Paul CÚzanne, were stolen on 19 May by armed thieves.
Police arrested a total of eight people in both Rome and Turin where the works had been kept hidden. The group appeared to be closely knit and included a father and his 25 year old daughter, as well as a guard of the National Gallery and her husband. Another suspect has a criminal record including robbery and murder. At the scene of the arrests, police seized rifles, pistols, masks and wigs. The Carabinieri art theft unit confirmed that the eight suspects are all Italian.
The recovery of the works comes as a great relief to both the National Gallery, which was criticized for lax security, as well as the government of Professor Romano Prodi. "This was a bleeding wound that Italy did not deserve," Walter Veltroni, the Cultural Heritage Minister, said. "Today the wound is closed."
The thieves were apparently trying to find a private collector who would be interested in buying these works which are far too famous to sell on the open market. It's estimated that the combined value of the three paintings is in excess of $30 million.
Van Gogh's Portrait of a Young Peasant (also known as The Gardener) was found hidden in a Rome apartment under a bed. The CÚzanne work, Le Cabanon de Jourdan, was found in the same apartment wrapped in a blanket on top of an armoire. The other Van Gogh painting L'Arlesienne (Madame Ginoux), was found in another suspect's apartment in Turin.
All three paintings were displayed in Signor Veltroni's office and were undamaged as a result of the ordeal. The two Van Gogh paintings, the only oil paintings by the Dutch artist on public display in Italy, and the CÚzanne work should be back on exhibit at the National Gallery by Tuesday.