8 famous works of art that were stolen but then returned (9 photos)

10 May 2024
Category: painting, 0+

What famous works of art have been lost or stolen, only to be discovered and returned to their rightful place?

Paintings, sculptures and frescoes are just a small part of the coveted loot of thieves and robbers. Interpol's database of stolen works of art contains over 52,000 pieces that have yet to be found and returned to museums. But we want to talk about 8 works of art that were lucky.

"Woman Combing Her Hair", Pablo Picasso

The author sold the painting, painted in 1940, to a collector in New York, but in 2016, Turkish police organized an operation to seize the painting from its illegal owners. The painting was recognized as genuine, it was sent to the University of Fine Arts, but here’s the problem: the New York Museum of Modern Art claims that the same painting has been hanging in their house since 1995, and in Turkey there is a high-quality copy. In any case, the painting gained “freedom” and left the list of missing things.

Mosaic of Panayia Kanakaria Church

During the 1974 Turkish invasion of Cyprus, a mosaic depicting St. Mark was stolen from the church. The work was over 1,600 years old and unheard of until 2018, when a British family bought an antique mosaic for their home and decided to have it valued. Having learned about the true value and rarity of the work, the family agreed to return the face of the saint to the Cypriot people for mere trifles - $11,400,000. Needless to say, the Cypriot authorities agreed to the purchase, because the mosaic is an important example of early Christian art, which has been little preserved in the country.

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Benin bronzes

This is a group of sculptures made of bronze and brass, which dates back to the 16th century. They were made by craftsmen from the Kingdom of Benin (modern Nigeria). During the European colonization, the British captured this part of Africa, and took the Benin bronzes with them. Some were lost, and some were kept in British museums. In recent years, European countries have decided to confront their colonial past and have begun to return stolen artifacts to their homeland. Thus, the British Museum returned the bronzes to Nigeria.

Zodiac sculptures

Until 1860, in the Old Summer Garden of Beijing there was a water clock, where instead of numbers there were 12 bronze heads of animals belonging to the Chinese zodiac. Then the British and French came in during the Second Opium War and stole all the heads. For many years, China has been searching for these bronze sculptures and returning them to their homeland, dreaming of one day restoring the clocks. So far, a rat, rabbit, ox, tiger, monkey, horse and pig have been found, while a dragon, snake, rooster and dog have not yet been discovered.

"Three Characters" by Rufino Tamayo

This is a picture with an amazing fate. Painted in 1970 by a Mexican artist, it was sold to an American. A man bought the painting at auction for $55,000 as a gift for his wife. But in 1987, the family moved and left all their belongings, including Tamayo's painting, in a temporary storage warehouse. The warehouse was robbed and the painting disappeared. It was only in 2003 that a certain Elizabeth Gibson was walking down the street and noticed an ownerless painting. She took it home and then decided to have it assessed by an expert. It was then that it became clear that the painting was considered stolen. Elizabeth returned the “characters” to their rightful owners, receiving a reward of $15,000. But that’s not all: in 2007, the painting was put up for auction, where it was sold for $1,049,000, and Gibson received a small share of that sale.

"Child with a Soap Bubble", Rembrandt Harmenson van Rijn

In 1999, the Frenchman stole the painting from the municipal museum and carefully kept it for 15 years. In 2014, he decided to correct his actions and took the painting to the police, surrendering to the mercy of the authorities. Curiously, Rembrandt is one of the main lovers of thieves, and more than 300 of his works are listed in the database of missing paintings.

"The Scream", Edvard Munch

The painting was stolen from the Oslo National Museum in 1994, and the thieves only needed one minute: they broke open the window next to the painting and quickly pulled out the canvas. “Scream” was discovered only 3 months later and returned. Interestingly, Munch painted another version of the painting, and it was kept in his own museum, but that painting was also stolen. True, the police found the robbers in hot pursuit and quickly returned the canvas.

"Mona Lisa", Leonardo do Vinci

In 1911, an artist and frequent visitor to the Louvre approached a museum employee and asked when the Mona Lisa would be returned. It was then that Louvre workers noticed that the painting had disappeared. This incident hit the media, and the picture gained incredible popularity, which has not faded to this day. Only 28 months later, police caught a thief trying to sell the painting on the black market in Florence.


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