- Times wins two awards from Society for Professional Journalists
- Marionville mayor ‘kind of agreed’ with Kansas City shooter’s views
- Rev. Al Sharpton’s Easter message: Politically ‘crucified’ Obama has risen again
- Supreme Court to weigh challenge to ban on campaign lies
- UNICEF launches ‘Mr. Poo’ mascot in India to curb public defecation
- Teen taking selfie by train: ‘Wow, that guy just kicked me in the head’
- Goodbye, Afghanistan — hello, Africa: Air Force to shift as U.S. exits Middle East
- Iran mulls ban on vasectomies, decrease on abortions to bolster population
- CNN op-ed claims right-wingers ‘more deadly than jihadists’
- Classes resume at high school rocked by stabbings
Stolen Spanish tapestry repatriated
Work tracked across two continents since ‘79
St. Vincent is back home in Spain after an absence of 34 years.
More precisely, the saint's image in a 16th century Flemish tapestry stolen from a Spanish cathedral in 1979 was flown back to Madrid over the weekend.
The 9-by-4-foot tapestry, recovered in Texas in 2012 by agents of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, was formally handed over to the Embassy of Spain in Washington on Wednesday for "repatriation."
Spanish officials at the ceremony said the tapestry would be returned to the cathedral of St. Vincent, where the theft occurred, in Roda de Isabena, the fortified town in the Spanish Pyrenees that was a first line of defense against the Moorish occupiers of a large part of south and central Spain.
The vividly colored silk hanging in the form of a triptych depicts St. Vincent with the Virgin Mary and baby Jesus in the center panel, with St. Valerius, who was bishop of Zaragoza (St. Vincent was his associate), shown in one side panel, and St. Ramon, bishop of Roda de Isabena, in the other.
Compared to the cathedral in Roda de Isabena, the tapestry dating from the 1500s is modern art. The Romanesque structure was built in 1067.
A deposition from the U.S. District Court in Texas names the alleged thief as Rene Alphonse Van Den Berghe, also known as Erik the Belgian. But there is no further mention of him in the official account of the investigation that led to the tapestry's recovery.
Spain's ambassador to Washington, Ramon Gil-Casares, called the recovery of the tapestry "a great example of successful cooperation" between the U.S. and Spain. In reality, the investigation involved specialized police in five countries.
The missing tapestry resurfaced in 2010, when a sharp-eyed museum curator in Spain saw it listed on the Internet in a catalog from the Brussels Antiques and Fine Arts Fair and notified the Spanish Heritage Protection Group, a branch of the Spanish Civil Guard. The stolen tapestry, it turned out, belonged to a Belgian gallery owner who told Belgian police that he had purchased it from a Milan gallery.
According to the court document, the Belgian later said he had bought it at a Munich auction house Hampel Galleries in partnership with the Milan gallery owner and a Paris art dealer.
The gallery owner, Yvan Maes De Wit, claimed to have no knowledge of the provenance of the tapestry because the auction house did not provide the information. Still, the tapestry was subsequently exhibited in art galleries in Paris (where it also was restored), Milan, and then at Mr. De Wit's own gallery in Mechelen, Belgium. In April 2010, Mr. De Wit sold the tapestry to a business in Houston for $369,000.
This brought in the special ICE unit that investigates cross-border art thefts. In 2011, acting on detailed information from the Spanish Civil Guard, ICE investigators questioned the Houston buyer. Spanish specialists journeyed to Houston and examined the tapestry using specialized computers to match its characteristics with the stolen tapestry. They identified it as the one taken from the cathedral in Roda de Isabena in 1979, and Madrid sent a legal request for its return. The tapestry was seized in November 2012.
"Today is another good day in the fight against international art thieves," ICE Director John Morton said at the hand-over ceremony. "The plundering of cultural property is one of the oldest forms of organized cross-border crime. Today we right that wrong."
TWT Video Picks
By John R. Bolton
Reality calls for attaching Gaza to Egypt and the West Bank to Jordan
- 'Culture of intimidation' seen in Nevada ranch standoff
- Air Force sees resource shift as U.S. exits Afghanistan, heads to Africa
- FISHER: Shades of Berlin in the South China Sea
- GOP writes legislation to deny Attorney General Eric Holder his salary
- Nevada Bundy ranch standoff could leave dirt on Harry Reid reputation
- CNN op-ed claims right-wingers 'more deadly than jihadists'
- Russian fighter jet buzzes U.S. Navy destroyer in Black Sea
- BOLTON: A 'three-state solution' for Middle East peace
- IRS emails reveal discussion with Justice about suing nonprofits for election activities
- Atheists rush to stage Easter display: 'Jesus Christ is a myth'
Celebrity deaths in 2014
Top 10 handguns in the U.S.