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22 Aug 2004 17:50
Edvard Munch’s famous paintings The Scream and Madonna were stolen from an art museum on Sunday while stunned museum-goers watched armed men threatening the staff at gunpoint as they took the art works to a waiting car, police said.
“Two or three armed men threatened an employee with a handgun to give them The Scream and Madonna,” said police spokesperson Hilde Walsoe.
“No one has been physically injured, and the suspects escaped in an Audi A6.
We are searching for the suspects with all available means.”
Many museum visitors panicked and thought they were being attacked by terrorists.
“He was wearing a black face mask and something that looked like a gun to force a female security guard down on the floor,” visitor Marketa Cajova told the NTB news agency.
A French radio producer, Francois Castang, said he was visiting the Munch Museum in Oslo when thieves burst in and made off with the paintings, including the painter’s depiction of an anguished figure with its head in its hands.
“What’s strange is that in this museum, there weren’t any means of protection for the paintings, no alarm bell,” Castang told France Inter radio.
“The paintings were simply attached by wire to the walls,” he said.
Castang said police arrived on the scene 15 minutes later.
Visitors were ushered into the museum’s cafeteria.
Police were notified at 11.10am local time and at 1pm they had cordoned off the area around the museum to interview 25 witnesses.
In February 1994, The Scream was stolen from the museum and remained missing for nearly three months. Police ultimately recovered the work, which is on fragile paper, undamaged in a hotel in Asgardstrand, about 65km south of the capital, Oslo. Three Norwegians were arrested.
At the time, investigators said the trio tried to ransom the painting, demanding $1-million from the government. The money was never paid.
The Madonna is an oil on canvas and is 90,5cm by 70,5cm. Munch painted it between 1894 and 1895. The painting features a woman surrounded by swimming sperm and a fetus in the lower left corner.
Munch, a Norwegian painter and graphic artist who worked in Germany as well as his home country, developed an emotionally charged style that was of great importance in the birth of the 20th-century expressionist movement.
He painted The Scream in 1893, as part of his Frieze of Life series, in which sickness, death, anxiety and love are central themes. He died in 1944 at the age of 81.
The National Art Museum owns 58 paintings by Munch.—Sapa-AP
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