Friday, September 01, 2006

Scream of joy after art is recovered unharmed

NO NEW arrests have been made following the recovery of Edvard Munch's paintings The Scream and Madonna, which two armed robbers pulled from the wall of an Oslo museum two years ago.

The paintings were recovered in relatively good condition in Norway on Thursday, but the case remains far from solved, although earlier this year three of six men charged in the theft were found guilty of minor roles.

Art lovers and public officials said they were relieved not only by the paintings' recovery but also by the relative lack of damage.

After meeting administrators of the Munch Museum, where the pictures were stolen in broad daylight on August 22, 2004, as tourists cowered on the floor, Erling Lae, the commissioner of Oslo's city government, said: "We know that both pictures have been handled roughly and that Madonna has received a scratch or gouge, but I have been informed that the damages are not irreparable."

At a news conference, the police said conservators would use scientific techniques to certify that the paintings in hand were genuine.

However, Gro Balas, Oslo's director of cultural affairs, told the state-run NRK television network that everyone involved was "practically certain" of the works' authenticity.

Their combined insured value had been put at $US120 million ($157 million), though some experts say The Scream alone could bring more than $US100 million if sold legitimately.

Munch produced two fully realised versions of the motif, which shows an unformed man agape beneath an orange-red sky, and several less-valuable pastels and sketches. While the Munch Museum's version has been missing, visitors have been able to see the other one across town in the National Gallery.

The police refused to say what led to the paintings' recovery or even where in Norway it took place. NRK cited sources who said it occurred "in the Oslo area".

The New York Times

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