In January 2005, the Westfries Museum in Hoorn, North Holland was robbed of 24 paintings and 70 items of silverware. The museum specializes in Golden Age artwork, which is a period of Dutch artwork that roughly spans the 17th century.
Five pieces have been returned, and crowdfunding is now paying to repair the damage inflicted during the robbery. However, as of December 2016, these were the only pieces that have been recovered.
Having hired art detective Arthur Brand, the museum is hopeful more will be returned. Previously, the museum offered a €5million (£3.6million) finder’s fee for the missing artworks. It is thought that more of the artwork may be in Ukraine or possibly Russia. As for the antique silverware, there are no leads as to where it could be.
The stolen paintings were cut out of their frames and removed in the middle of the night, leaving museum staff the horror of finding just the empty frames in the morning. The thieves are thought to have hidden in the museum before closing time and disabled the alarm system. Artists’ paintings that were taken include works by Jan Linsen, Jan van Goyen, and Jacob Waben.
Four of the recovered paintings came from a group claiming to be from a far-right militia in Ukraine. Two representatives of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists apparently contacted the Dutch embassy back in July. They produced a photograph showing one of the paintings next to a recent Ukrainian newspaper to help authenticate their claim of having these paintings.
The museum has been quoted as saying they told the militia that the art is not worth as much as the finder’s fee. The four paintings recovered from the militia were handed over by the Ukrainian officials at the Dutch Embassy. The fifth painting returned came from a Ukrainian art buyer who returned it to the Dutch embassy in Kiev.
The museum has decided to go public with this news as it hopes to deter buyers of the stolen artwork and to increase awareness of their efforts to recover the paintings. There is an unsubstantiated rumor that the four paintings were found in an abandoned villa, Mail Online reported.
The recovered paintings are now back and on display for people to enjoy at the Westfries Museum in Holland.