A Caravaggio painting stolen from a museum in Odessa in the Ukraine two years ago was recovered by police as four men tried to sell it in Berlin, official said Monday.
ARTKABINETT collector members will now have the opportunity to view this important work as it returns to its rightful home in Odessa, Ukraine
Police confiscated the 17th-century painting known as "The Taking of Christ," or "The Kiss of Judas".
Arrested were the three Ukrainians and a Russian on Friday, who were attempting to sell the canvas to a buyer in Berlin, reported Germany's Federal Crime Police..
The men are suspected to be members of an international art theft ring. Twenty other suspected members of it were arrested in Ukraine, the police said.
The large chiaroscuro painting, worth several million euros, was stolen from the Museum of Western and Eastern Art in Odessa, Ukraine, in July 2008 by thieves who entered the museum at night and cut the painting out of its frame.
"The Ukrainian authorities have valued the painting in the tens of millions," the police statement said. Other experts have estimated that the work could fetch up to $100 million US on the black market.
Anke Spriestersbach, a police spokeswoman, declined to release any information about the potential buyer, saying the investigation is still under way.
The arrests in Berlin were made in cooperation with Germany's special GSG 9 forces and Ukrainian police.
Michelangelo Caravaggio, a Baroque master from Italy, was known for his dramatic use of light, novel perspective and the use of ordinary people in religious and mythological scenes. Painted around 1602, The Taking of Christ depicts Jesus being dragged by soldiers after being kissed by his disciple Judas.
Though some believe the work to be a student's replica of a Caravaggio painting on display at National Gallery of Ireland, in 1950 a Soviet art expert declared The Taking of Christ a work of the Italian baroque master. Caravaggioís paintings are especially known for their dark, brooding shadows and the contrasts of dark and light which are known as the chiaroscuro style.
But in addition to being an artist of legendary talent, Caravaggio apparently had a rather sordid personal life and seems constantly to have been in trouble, fighting brawls, fleeing from one place to another, and even being accused of murder.
The painting was snatched from Ukraine's Museum of Western European and Oriental Art in Odessa in July 2008, with officials admitting that the thief or thieves bypassed the facility's outdated alarm system by simply removing panes of glass to enter at night.
The Odessa Museum of Western and Oriental Art possesses one of the finest collections of foreign art in the Ukraine.
It was founded in 1923 on the basis of private collections assembled by the local Committee for the Protection of Monuments of Art and Antiquity, and also of works received from the City Museum of Fine Arts and the cabinet of art history at Novorossiysky University.
Later, it was augmented with new acquisitions from museums: the State Hermitage, the Kiev Museum of Western and Oriental Art, and the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts. The museum is housed in a palace built to the design of architect L. Otton in 1856-1858.
Today it is an architectural monument incorporating elements of the Baroque, Empire and Rococo styles. The exhibition consists of three sections-Antique, West-European and Oriental art-and occupies twenty-three halls. The collection does not claim to provide an exhaustive representation of all the major periods of art history, but it contains a number of brilliant works by outstanding artists.
The selection of West-European painting is the core of the museum collection. It covers the period from the early sixteenth to the latter half of the twentieth century - from the Renaissance period to contemporary artistic trends.
This exhibition begins with the former period, a unique phenomenon in the history of human culture.
The paintings on display reflect the vivid features of the art of Italy, the homeland of the Renaissance; as well as the original insight of the masters of the Northern Renaissance (the Netherlands, Germany).
The 18 century, the period of the formation of national schools, is represented in the museum collection by the works of the the great Dutch portraitist Frans Hals; the Flemish artist Teniers the Younger; the painter of the Spanish court Juan Carreno de Miranda; and the brilliant French portrait painter Pierre Mignard. The eighteenth century was the Golden Age of portrait and landscape painting.
The 19th century in the history of West-European art is characterized by the onward march of realism, and its struggle with academicism and salon art which tried to escape from the social themes of the day, turning to biblical subjects and mythology.
The ideological acuity and a realistic approach to life is vividly manifested in the work of such artists as Christoffel Bischop, Jozef Israels, Mihaly Munkacsy, and Albert Gustaf Edelfelt. The collection of twentieth-century art boasts the works of the French artist Susanna Savary and the American painter Rockwell Kent.
Compared with paintings, sculptures in the Odessa museum are not so numerous. But this fact notwithstanding, they comprehensively cover the period from the sixteenth century up to the twentieth, representing milestones on the path of the evolution of the West-European sculpture of modern times.
The museum sculptural exhibits are interesting from the viewpoint that they may be considered as links connecting various stages in the development of European art over a period of three and a half centuries.
The Apostle John and The Apostle Peter contrast with Venus, which is marked by manneristic features, all three statues dating from the Renaissance period. Antoine Coysevox (Glory Mounted on Pegasus) is a representative of the Grand Style: his creative work signified the transition from the Baroque to Classicism.
The next stage, the epoch of Louis XV, is reflected by Edme Bouchardon's Hercules with Cerberus. Sculptural portraiture of the late eighteenth century is exemplified by the bust of Queen Marie Antoinette cast in the nineteenth century from the original of Louis Simon Boizot.
The nineteenth century is characterized by the struggle of the academic and realistic trends; Cesare Zocchi and Robert Cauer the Elder being the advocates of academicism, and Pierre Jules Mene and Paul Richer of realism. The historical sculpture Soldier with an Aster by the outstanding Hungarian sculptor Zsigmond Kisfaludi-Strobl.
st. Pushkinskaya, 9 Odessa 65026 Ukraine