August 31, 2006

Munch’s stolen “The Scream” found by police

By Marianne Fronsdal

OSLO (Reuters) - "The Scream" and another stolen
masterpiece by Norwegian artist Edvard Munch were recovered by
police on Thursday, two years after gunmen seized the paintings
from an Oslo museum.

"'The Scream' and 'Madonna' are now in police possession,"
police chief Iver Stensrud told a news conference. "The damage
is much less than we could have feared."

He said the pictures were recovered on Thursday afternoon
in "a successful police operation" and said no ransom had been

"The Scream" is an icon of existential angst showing a
terrified figure against a blood-red sky. "Madonna" shows a
bare-breasted woman with long black hair.

Two masked gunmen walked into the Munch Museum in Oslo in
August 2004 and yanked the two works from the walls in front of
dozens of terrified tourists. They escaped in a car driven by
another man.

The paintings are both from 1893. Three men were convicted
in May of taking part in the theft and were sentenced to up to
eight years in jail.

Two of them were ordered to pay $122 million in damages.

The police said an expert at the Munch Museum had examined
the pictures and judged them authentic. A scientific
examination will also be carried out to verify the works.

Munch painted two famous versions of "The Scream,"
including the one recovered on Thursday.

The other was stolen in 1994 from Oslo's National Gallery
by thieves who simply broke a window and climbed in with a
ladder. It was recovered after several months by police posing
as buyers.

Stensrud declined to answer questions about media reports
last week that a jailed bank robber, David Toska, had promised
information about the paintings if he won a reduced sentence.

"Out of consideration of police working methods, it will be
hard to give details about how the operation was carried out,"
the police said in a statement.

In the foreground of "The Scream," on a bridge with
railings, is a human figure, hands to its head, eyes staring,
mouth agape. Further back are two men in top hats and a
landscape of fjord and hills against a red sky.

The painting is regarded as an evocative depiction of angst
in a world of man-made horrors such as genocide.