Two important Old Master paintings have been recovered by the Art Loss Register and safely returned to Italy after their theft 22 years ago


1: Aniello Falcone (1607-1656), Battle scene, oil on canvas, 150 x 205 cm

2: Workshop of Valentin de Boulogne (1591-1632), Concert with four people and a drinker, oil on canvas, 103 x 148 cm

The Art Loss Register (ALR) has recovered two large Old Master paintings, both of which were stolen in Rome in 1994: one from the former Senator and Prime Minister of the Italian State (1970-1972) Emilio Colombo, the other from the office of an accountant. These two works are the largest to be recovered by the ALR in the company’s 25-year history.

The close partnership between the Art Loss Register and the Italian Carabinieri High Command for the Protection of Cultural Heritage in this case was essential to ensuring a successful outcome for these two masterpieces, and for the victims of the original crimes. Chief Marshal Salvatore Simone and Adjutant Marshal Antonio Ammendola of the Carabinieri expressed their ‘thanks to the Art Loss Register for their indispensable collaboration, as well as the professionalism and expertise they demonstrated in the identification and subsequent return of these two paintings stolen in Rome’.

The paintings were both stolen in 1994, but it was not until December 2014 when a private individual searched both paintings against the Art Loss Register database that a positive match was made. The Art Loss Register’s research revealed that the paintings corresponded to two losses reported by the Carabinieri in Rome. The Carabinieri confirmed to the Art Loss Register that the works had never been recovered and were keen to secure their return to Italy.

The team at the Art Loss Register made further enquiries into the location of the works, and was staggered to discover that they were located in a storage vault just a few hundred metres from its London offices in Hatton Garden.

The Art Loss Register informed the current owner, who had no link to the theft, that the paintings were stolen. In an act of goodwill, he swiftly surrendered the pictures and relinquished all rights to the works.

The Art Loss Register has since been working closely with the Carabinieri to arrange for the shipping of these works back to Italy. The size and condition of the paintings made this a tricky undertaking. The shipping took place during the last week of May. The paintings will now need to undergo relining and restoration before being returned to their rightful owners, since the old canvases were severely damaged by the thefts.