Artwork stolen in 'one of UK's highest value art heists' returned after being found in Romania

  • ITV Meridian reporter Ciaran Fitzpatrick was there as the painting by Salvator Rosa was returned to its home in Oxford

A famous painting, stolen in what has been described as one of UK's highest value art heists, has been returned after being found in Romania.

Salvator Rosa's 'A Rocky Coast, with Soldiers Studying a Plan’ was one of three artworks stolen, from Christ Church Picture Gallery in Oxford in 2020.

Sir Anthony van Dyck's "Soldier on Horseback", and Annibale Carracci's "A Boy Drinking" are hugely famous, and the crown jewels of the gallery's collection. They were also taken by thieves.

Together with Salvatore Rosa's piece, they are estimated to be worth more than £10 million.

‘A Boy Drinking’ by Annibale Carracci from around 1580 (LEFT) and Sir Anthony van Dyck’s ‘A Soldier on Horseback’ (RIGHT) were also taken Credit: Christ Church College

The artworks had been on display for more than 250 years, before the high profile heist, which took place in the dead of night.

It even featured on the BBC show 'Crimewatch' in 2021, in which CCTV was released showing the moment thieves took the paintings.

Romanian police were contacted by a man in possession of the Rosa painting, who had sold on the other two artworks, which are understood to be somewhere in Europe.

He chose to return the Rosa painting to the authorities. The man is being treated as a witness by Romanian authorities and has not been arrested.

At a press conference at Christ Church Picture Gallery, police renewed their appeal for more information on the other two art works stolen.

Thames Valley Police have now made a fresh appeal for information about two other works taken in the same raid.

Senior investigating officer Det Ch Insp James Mather said: "We’re pleased to be able to announce this breakthrough and recover this painting by Salvator Rosa, thanks to the Romanian authorities and their intelligence.

"Our enquiries are ongoing and we are working with the Romanian judiciary and police, as well as Eurojust and Europol, to gather further intelligence, and it is believed that the other two paintings were sold on in Romania and could be anywhere in Europe.

"Some of the work includes detailed forensic analysis of the painting which is ongoing.

"While this is significant progress, two important works of art remain missing. That’s why we’re continuing to appeal for further information to assist in returning these irreplaceable artworks, which could be anywhere in Europe.”

‘A Rocky Coast, with Soldiers Studying a Plan’ which was stolen from Christ Church Picture Gallery on 14 March 2020 Credit: Christ Church College

Jacqueline Thalmann, Curator of Christ Church Picture Gallery, said: "We’re grateful to the Romanian authorities and Thames Valley Police for their help in retrieving this priceless work and returning it to our gallery.

"The missing paintings have been on public view since 1768, so it’s vital that we recover them so they can be enjoyed and studied by all once more.

"Not only do the paintings form a significant part of our collection, but their significance to our British and European culture is inestimable.

"I’d like to appeal to anyone who has any information which can help return the remaining pictures to our gallery, where they can continue to enrich our public life."

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