Two paintings by Vincent van Gogh, (Seascape at Scheveningen and Congregation leaving the Reformed Church in Nuenen), painted in the 19th Century, were stolen in 2002 from the Van Gogh Museum by an art thief named Octave Durham.
Octave Durham is an Italian who was known amongst his dealers by the name of “The Monkey”. He was jailed in the same year he had committed the crime, but the paintings had not been found, until now.
The Italian Anti-Mafia police force was in the process of cracking down a case of Naples-based Camorra crime syndicate, when they came across the two famous paintings of “priceless value”, which “appear to be in relatively good condition,”. This clan was suspected to be a part of a huge cocaine trafficking activity. The police at Naples also believes that the price of these paintings can be estimated up to “tens of millions of euros.”
A statement released by the Director of the Van Gogh Museum, Axel Rüger, conveyed his gratitude by saying “After all those years you no longer dare to count on a possible return. The paintings have been found! That I would be able to ever pronounce these words is something I had no longer dared to hope for,”.
The theft was prioritised in the top 10 art crimes by the FBI. Although two people were arrested in 2004 when their DNA matched that of samples taken from the site where they had stolen the art pieces, the paintings was not to be found. The museum now reports that although there are slight damages, the painting are in fairly good condition.
The statement by the museum also said “it is unknown where the works were kept after the theft in 2002, but it can be assumed that the paintings were not preserved under suitable conditions,”.
A news conference is scheduled in Naples on Friday, to answer further questions about the theft and the paintings. It hasn’t yet been decided when these painting are going to be returned back to Amsterdam.