- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 11, 2007

OSLO, Norway

The theft-damaged Edvard Munch masterpieces “The Scream” and “Madonna” may require treatment by an eye surgeon to remove tiny splinters of glass during their restoration, the Munch Museum’s director said yesterday.

“That is one of the options under consideration,” Lise Mjoes said after testifying at a court hearing in Oslo.

She said an eye surgeon has skills and equipment to remove glass fragments without damaging the surrounding area.

The paintings were recovered by police on Aug. 31, about two years after they were stolen by masked gunmen in a brazen daylight heist at Oslo’s Munch Museum. Both were damaged and are being repaired.

Last month, an Oslo appeals court upheld the conviction of three men for taking part in the robbery, and yesterday it began hearing testimony ahead of their sentencing. The prosecution demanded prison terms ranging from seven to 12 years. Sentencing is expected April 23.

In yesterday’s testimony, Miss Mjoes described the damage to the paintings as the result of the heavy-handed theft and two years of improper storage. She said the damage was the same as previously described by the museum: scrapes, holes, loose paint and moisture damage.

She said because the frames and glass on both works had been broken during the theft, tiny glass fragments were embedded in the paintings, with “Madonna” being especially hard hit.

“We want to get those out to prevent them from causing more damage later,” Miss Mjoes told the court, adding that the museum might ask an eye surgeon to remove the glass.

After the hearing, she said a painstaking process of assessing the damage to the paintings and deciding the best approach to repairing them was still under way. Miss Mjoes said no decision had been made on when to start the restoration work or how long it would take to complete it.

The city-owned Munch Museum has demanded that the thieves pay $262,000 for the restoration process and $213,000 for lost income as a result of the theft.

Although the paintings are broadly considered priceless, prosecutors in the original trial demanded that the thieves pay $123 million in compensation. That demand was dropped after police recovered the paintings in a secret operation they still refuse to discuss.

“The Scream” and “Madonna” were part of Munch’s “Frieze of Life” series, in which sickness, death, anxiety and love are central themes. The artist died in 1944 at age 80.

There are four versions of “The Scream,” probably Munch’s best-known work, depicting a waiflike figure apparently screaming or hearing a scream.

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