Stolen artwork returned to Christ Church Picture Gallery

Christ Church’s Picture Gallery is celebrating the recovery of its seventeenth century painting ‘A Rocky Coast, with Soldiers Studying a Plan’ which was stolen from the gallery on 14 March 2020.

The Italian Baroque landscape by Salvator Rosa was handed in to authorities in Romania and recovered by officers from Thames Valley Police and Jacqueline Thalmann, curator of Christ Church Picture Gallery. 

Sir Anthony van Dyck’s ‘A Soldier on Horseback’
 ‘A Soldier on Horseback’ by Sir Anthony van Dyck

Thames Valley Police are appealing for information about two other paintings stolen in the same raid: Sir Anthony van Dyck’s ‘A Soldier on Horseback’ dating from circa 1617 and ‘A Boy Drinking’ by Annibale Carracci dating from around 1580, both of which have been on display since 1768 at Christ Church. 

Romanian police were contacted by a man in possession of the Rosa painting, who had sold on the other two artworks, which are understood to be somewhere in Europe. He chose to return the Rosa painting to the authorities. The man is being treated as a witness by Romanian authorities and has not been arrested. 

Jacqueline Thalmann, Curator of Christ Church Picture Gallery, said: “We’re grateful to the Romanian authorities and Thames Valley Police for their help in retrieving this priceless work and returning it to our gallery.

“The missing paintings have been on public view since 1768, so it’s vital that we recover them so they can be enjoyed and studied by all once more. Not only do the paintings form a significant part of our collection, but their significance to our British and European culture is inestimable.

“I’d like to appeal to anyone who has any information which can help return the remaining pictures to our gallery, where they can continue to enrich our public life.”

‘A Boy Drinking’ by Annibale Carracci
‘A Boy Drinking’ by Annibale Carracci 

The three works had an estimated value of £10m.

Senior investigating officer Detective Chief Inspector James Mather said: “We’re pleased to be able to announce this breakthrough and recover this painting by Salvator Rosa, thanks to the Romanian authorities and their intelligence. 

“Our enquiries are ongoing and we are working with the Romanian judiciary and police, as well as Eurojust and Europol, to gather further intelligence, and it is believed that the other two paintings were sold on in Romania and could be anywhere in Europe.  

“Some of the work includes detailed forensic analysis of the painting which is ongoing.

“While this is significant progress, two important works of art remain missing. That’s why we’re continuing to appeal for further information to assist in returning these irreplaceable artworks, which could be anywhere in Europe.” 

A Rocky Coast, with Soldiers Studying a Plan