BRUSSELS – A painting by Belgian surrealist master Rene Magritte, stolen at gunpoint two years ago, has been returned after the thieves apparently failed to find a buyer, the Rene-Magritte museum said Friday.
The work, titled Olympia and depicting the artist’s wife nude with a giant shell lying on her stomach, was stolen in September 2009 by two armed gunmen from Magritte’s former house, which is open as a museum by appointment only.
Said to be worth around 3 million euros at the time, experts had said the highly recognizable oil would be difficult to sell.
More than two years later, a person contacted an expert working with the insurance company and offered to hand it back with no strings attached, museum curator Andre Garitte told AFP.
“They’d visibly understood they wouldn’t be able to sell it because it was too well-known,” he said. “It became an embarassment and they preferred to get rid of it. Luckily they didn’t destroy it.”
The museum, which has been returned the painting, has not yet decided whether to hang it.
The daylight theft of the 1948 work was blamed at the time on two men, one of them said to be Asian, one a French-speaker, the other an English-speaker.
They entered the museum shortly after it opened and at gunpoint forced staff to lie down in the courtyard as one of the men climbed over a glass panel protecting the work to steal it.
The museum, set in a house where the painter lived and worked for 24 years, is far smaller than the bigger Magritte museum opened in central Brussels.
ADDITIONAL IMAGE OF NOTE