Loud sigh of relief as Scream is recovered

Two Edvard Munch masterpieces stolen in one of the world’s most audacious art thefts two years ago have been recovered, police said on Thursday.

A version of the Norwegian artist’s most famous painting, The Scream, and his Madonna are in the hands of the authorities apparently in good condition after speculation that they had been irreparably damaged.

At a news conference in Oslo the head of the city’s organised crime unit, Iver Stensrud, said: “We are 100% certain they are the originals. The damage was much less than feared.”

Experts from the Munch museum have authenticated the paintings, and it is believed the damage consists of a small tear in The Scream and two holes in Madonna.

The recovery comes almost two years to the day after two armed men wearing hooded tops and balaclavas entered a museum gallery and pulled the paintings from the wall as a terrified security guard was held at gun point. Dozens of tourists were made to lie on the ground.

Security cameras filmed the robbers ripping off the wooden frames from the paintings to get rid of electronic tracking devices.

Earlier this year two men were jailed for seven and eight years for their role in the robbery: one drove the getaway car and the other knew what the car was being used for.
The two gunmen have yet to be convicted.

The recovery ends a difficult time for Norwegian police, who have been criticised for failing to find the paintings despite making numerous arrests and a 2m kroner reward being offered.

Security at Munch museum was also questioned and it was closed for several months for a $£81-million upgrade, which included installing metal detectors and a labyrinthine floor plan.

The Scream, depicting a terrified figure under a blood red sky, is one of the most famous paintings in the world, and the stolen canvass is one of four versions.

The critic Robert Hughes wrote in The Guardian last year that Munch was the most miserable northerner of all.

“His relentless and self-absorbed despair makes everyone else’s spleen look almost kittenish. Hell, you realise, could be defined as being locked in a small room with Edvard Munch for all eternity and certainly it seemed that way to Munch himself.”

A different version of The Scream was stolen from Norway’s National Gallery in 1994 but recovered a few months later.

The Munch museum was delighted by the news. Gro Balas, the board chairperson, said: “I am almost crying from happiness.

“They have been given a cursory examination, but for now I am content just to feel overjoyed. The word we have about their condition is reassuring.” - Guardian Unlimited Â

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