Romania discovers Salvator Rosa Painting—two other artworks remain missing—from the Oxford raid

A 17th Century artwork, considered to be of great value, was recently recovered in Romania after being stolen from an Oxford University Gallery.

However, authorities are still actively searching for two additional paintings that were also taken during the heist.

In March 2020, a group of individuals managed to gain unauthorised access to the Christ Church Picture Gallery, where they proceeded to remove three valuable paintings dating back to the 16th and 17th centuries.

They managed to make a daring escape with the artwork by using a ladder to exit through the roof.

The total value of the haul was approximately £10 million.

These pieces of artwork include Salvator Rosa’s A Rocky Coast, With Soldiers Studying a Plan, painted in the late 1640s, Sir Anthony van Dyck’s A Soldier on Horseback, from 1616, and Annibale Carracci’s A Boy Drinking, from 1580.

On the Rocky Coast, Salvator Rosa observes soldiers examining a plan. Image: Christ Church Photo Gallery

Thames Valley Police announced on Thursday that, thanks to collaboration with European law enforcement, the Salvator Rosa painting has been successfully returned.

Detective Chief Inspector James Mather shared during a press conference that Romanian police were alerted by an individual who had the painting in their possession, and had already sold two other artworks.

“He decided to hand over the painting to the authorities upon discovering that it was stolen, and he is now being regarded as a witness.”

Sir Anthony van Dyck’s “A Soldier on Horseback” Image: Christ Church Photo Gallery

Authorities are optimistic that the valuable 17th Century artefact, which was examined by specialists in Bucharest, will provide crucial forensic evidence. This evidence is expected to aid in identifying the thief and locating the remaining two missing pieces.

Authorities suspect that the two remaining paintings are currently located somewhere in Europe.

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DCI Mather expressed his confidence in the DNA evidence obtained from the painting during an interview with Sky News.

According to Christopher Marinello, founder of Art Recovery International, stolen works like this often find their way to Eastern Europe.

“When these artworks are stolen, the thieves attempt to swiftly sell them and relocate them outside the jurisdiction where they were taken,” he remarked.

“It appears that there are gangs and fences actively operating in Eastern Europe.” I currently have several cases where stolen artwork has been discovered in Serbia, Slovenia, Romania, and Turkey.

“It’s a shame that these stunning areas are plagued by the presence of criminal gangs involved in the illegal trade of stolen goods.”

Although she hasn’t been reunited with the complete collection, Jacqueline Thalmann, curator of Christ Church Picture Gallery, expressed great joy at the painting’s return. She admitted that she had doubts about whether any of the pieces would be seen again in Oxford during her lifetime.

She expressed her belief that we all have a responsibility to preserve this art for future and past generations.

“The paintings deserve to be displayed and shared, rather than being kept in a private collection or hidden away under someone’s bed.”

“They belong to the public.”

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