The Hague, Netherlands, Sep 12 – Five stolen 17th and 18th-century masterpieces will soon be returned from the Ukraine to the Dutch museum where they disappeared from more than a decade ago, officials announced on Monday.
“The Ukranian authorities will soon hand over five retrieved artworks to the Dutch embassy in Kiev,” said Marloes Hoorn, spokeswoman of the northwest town of Hoorn where the Westfries Museum is based.
A Dutch expert will travel to Kiev this week to authenticate the paintings and determine their condition, she said.
Although an exact date has not been set, “the paintings are then expected to be back in Hoorn three weeks after the handover in Kiev,” Hoorn said in a statement.
Twenty-four Dutch Golden Age masterpieces and 70 pieces of silverware were stolen from the Westfries Museum on the night of January 9, 2005.
At the time of their disappearance, the paintings were valued at a total of 10 million euros ($11 million).
Ukraine in April announced it had recovered four of the paintings, but it did not give details of how the works were retrieved, saying only they were “in the possession of criminal groups”.
The four paintings are: “A Peasant Wedding” by Hendrick Boogaert; “Kitchen Scene” by Floris van Schooten; “Return of Jephta” and “Lady World” by Jacob Waben.
A fifth painting, Isaak Ouwater’s 1784 piece entitled “Nieuwstraat in Hoorn”, valued at around 30,000 euros ($33,400), was handed back by an unsuspecting Ukranian art buyer in May, but details over how he came into possession of the artwork remains vague.
The Westfries Museum said in December the 24 missing paintings were thought to be in the hands of an ultranationalist militia fighting the pro-Russian insurgency in east Ukraine.
Museum staff this week said they were anxious about the condition of the artworks, with popular daily tabloid De Telegraaf reporting that “enormous damage has been done.”
It said restorer Ronald de Jager will travel to Kiev on Wednesday to do an assessment. He told the paper that “the canvasses have been removed from their frames and rolled or even folded up.”
“I dare not say anything yet about restoration costs,” De Jager said.