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The Carabinieri Art Squad recovers 12 paintings stolen from two Austrian churches

March 27, 2017


The Carabinieri Art Squad, in the course of an investigation coordinated by the Public Prosecution Office of Ferrara aimed at repressing a trade of stolen works of art, recovered 12 oil on board paintings dating back to the 15th century depicting religious subjects, part of polyptychs dismembered during two different criminal events and located in the assets of some collectors.

In particular, the investigation centred on the art mediation environment and immediately led to a network operating on the clandestine market of works of art. After complex technical and investigative activities, the photographs of some of the diptychs emerged: the depicted scenes immediately led the investigators to believe that the excellent artistic production could be external to Italy, and in particular Middle-European.

The immediate check carried out by experts of the Carabinieri Art Squad Data Elaboration department, revealed that the works appeared in the stolen cultural goods database, as they were ascribable to two thefts occurred in 1987 in the churches of Bad St. Lehonard - Carinthia (Austria) and Hallstatt (Austria).

At the time of the investigation, the works of art were ready to be sold abroad; the alacrity of the operation allowed the recovery of the works before they were placed on the routes of international traffic.

The investigative reconstruction, which already allowed the accusation of two subjects of the crime of receiving stolen goods, could be subject to further developments.

The theft of the works, originally integral parts of two altarpieces by the masters Lorenz Schwaiger and Meister Melchior, in addition to causing great damage to the Austrian historical and artistic heritage, represented a serious harm to the religious sensitivity of the local communities.

Some of the works of great historical and artistic interest, and in particular those stolen in Halstatt, will be displayed in Milan, at the Royal Palace, as part of the exhibition "Saints of Italy". At the end of the exhibition, the works will be returned to Austria.

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