- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 13, 2001

The FBI yesterday announced the recovery of three original Norman Rockwell paintings, which were among seven of the prolific painter's works stolen from the Elayne Gallery in Minneapolis more than 23 years ago.
The paintings, known as "The Spirit of 1976," "So Much Concern" and "A Hasty Retreat," were recovered from Jose Maria Carneiro, a gallery owner in Rio de Janeiro. The value of the three paintings was estimated at between $700,000 and $1 million.
FBI officials said the paintings had been hidden in a farmhouse outside the town of Teresopolis, Brazil. Mr. Carneiro has not been charged and will not be prosecuted. The three paintings were owned by the Brown & Bigelow Co., a calendar publisher in Minneapolis, and had been on loan to the Elayne Gallery for display.
FBI Agent Robert S. Conforti, who heads the bureau's Philadelphia field office, said the Norman Rockwell Museum in Massachusetts was contacted by Mr. Carneiro, who acknowledged he was in possession of two of the Rockwell paintings. The FBI said he offered to sell them to the museum, although the museum declined to purchase them.
Later, Mr. Conforti said, the museum informed the owners of the Elayne Gallery of the offer. In the late 1990s, Mr. Conforti said Mr. Carneiro had contacted the Elayne Gallery to say he was in possession of several Rockwell paintings and offered to sell them back.
He said the gallery arranged to buy back two paintings.
FBI officials said further investigation showed that Mr. Carneiro was in possession of the three paintings, which were held in Teresopolis, about 60 miles west of Rio de Janeiro.
They said that as a result of the inquiry, prosecutors in Pennsylvania filed a Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty request with the Central Authority of Brazil for assistance in the investigation.
The request was approved by the Brazilian Congress in February, the first such request to be approved between the two countries.
Mr. Conforti said that in September, Brazilian authorities executed a search and seizure warrant on Mr. Carneiro's home and business with the purpose of seizing the paintings.
According to the FBI, thieves broke into the Elayne Gallery in St. Louis Park, Minn., on Feb. 16, 1978, and stole seven original Norman Rockwell paintings.
All the paintings are now recovered.
It is unknown where the three paintings were from the date of the theft until 1994 when the Norman Rockwell Museum in Massachusetts was contacted by Mr. Carneiro.
Between 1925 and 1976, Norman Rockwell, created paintings for the annual Boy Scout calendar published by Brown and Bigelow. Each of the paintings depicted an image of the Scouts.
"So Much Concern" was the painting done for the Boy Scout calendar of 1975. "Spirit of 1976" was for the Bicentennial edition of the Boy Scout Calendar, intended to commemorate the 200th year signing of the Declaration of Independence. "A Hasty Retreat" is a painting that was used in the 1954 seasonal Brown and Bigelow calendar.
Norman Rockwell died in his home in Stockbridge, Mass, on Nov. 8, 1978, at age 84.

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