Arrests made over 2009 Edvard Munch heist from Oslo art dealer

Munchs work is a popular target for thieves, with The Scream having been stolen in 2004. Picture: Getty Images

Munchs work is a popular target for thieves, with The Scream having been stolen in 2004. Picture: Getty Images

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Two men have been arrested and jailed for four weeks in connection with the 2009 theft of a work by Edvard Munch from an Oslo art dealer, Norwegian police said earlier today.

Police spokeswoman Unni Groendal said the men are suspected of handling stolen goods, not carrying out the theft itself. They were arrested on Monday and Tuesday in Oslo, and jailed after a hearing today.

The men were not identified but Norwegian media said they were well-known to police and have criminal records.

The hand-coloured Munch lithography Historien (History) was recovered on Monday, Ms Groendal said, declining to elaborate. Printed in 1914, the lithograph was stolen on 12 November, 2009 from the Nyborgs Kunst art gallery in Oslo after one of its windows was smashed with a rock.

Gallery owner Pascal Nyborg told the Norwegian news agency NTB the lithograph was estimated to be worth about two million kroner (£170,000) at the time.

The Norwegian artist’s work has been a popular target for thieves.

The most notorious theft was in 2004 when gunmen stole the masterpieces The Scream and Madonna in a brazen midday raid on Oslo’s Munch Museum.

Another version of The Scream – Munch painted several – was taken from Norway’s National Gallery in 1994 by two thieves who left behind a postcard that read “Thanks for the poor security.”

One of the thieves had previously served a four-year sentence for the theft of Munch’s The Vampire in 1988. All of the artworks have been recovered and the lax museum security upgraded.

When Munch died in 1944 at the age of 80, many of his works were bequeathed to the city of Oslo, which opened the Munch Museum in 1963.

The museum holds a collection of approximately 1,100 paintings, 4,500 drawings and 18,000 prints, the broadest
collection of his works.

Munch’s image appears on the Norwegian 1,000 kroner note, along with pictures inspired by his artwork.

In May 2012, his most famous painting The Scream sold for $119.9 million, becoming the second most expensive artwork ever sold at an open auction. It was surpassed in November 2013 by Three Studies of Lucian Freud by Francis Bacon.

In 2013, four of Munch’s paintings were depicted in a series of stamps by the Norwegian postal service, to commemorate the 150th anniversary of his birth in 2014.

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