“We received information about a group of people looking for buyers for paintings stolen in Europe last year,” stated police official, Sergiy Tykhonov.
Signac’s Port de la Rochelle was painted in 1915 and depicts sailing boats bobbing on the calm water of the French port. Last year, the oil painting was cut out of its frame in a daring heist at the Museum of Fine Arts in Nancy, France.
Ukrainian police discovered the missing artwork in the city of Kiev. It was hidden inside the home of a Ukrainian man who is currently under investigation for murdering a jeweller.
Arsen Avakov, Ukraine’s interior minister, unveiled the recovered painting in an event this week with French ambassador Isabelle Dumont. A video released during the event shows one of the alleged thieves confessing that the painting was “stolen only because it was very simple.” Avakov later confirmed that Signac’s piece will be returned to France once the investigation ends.
According to reports, all suspects related to the audacious theft have now been arrested. The same gang of local thieves are also suspected of stealing other artworks.
Austrian authorities are working alongside Ukrainian police to investigate whether the same criminals were involved in the theft of a painting by Pierre-Auguste Renoir in Vienna. Only days before the painting was supposed to be auctioned, three middle-aged men stole Renoir’s Golfe, mer, falaises vertes. Auctioneers estimated its value between $131,000 and $181,000 (£102,000 and £140,000).
Authorities across Europe reportedly hope that these arrests will signify a major breakthrough in a series of art crimes that hitherto remain unsolved.