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Arts

Special forces recover stolen Caravaggio painting in Berlin

A stolen Caravaggio painting has been recovered in Berlin by German and Ukrainian special forces. Police stepped in just as the work was about to be sold, arresting members of the art trafficking ring as well.

Handcuffs

Police arrested at least 24 members of the organized crime ring responsible for the theft

A valuable painting by Italian early Baroque painter Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (1571-1610) was seized Friday in Berlin during a police raid, Germany's federal criminal police, the BKA, said Monday.

Members of the BKA as well as Germany's elite special operations police unit, GSG9, were involved in the raid, which interrupted a planned illegal sale of the work. The GSG9 is typically reserved for counter-terrorism or hostage situations.

One Russian and three Ukranian suspects from an international organized crime ring were also arrested. In Ukraine, where the painting was stolen in July 2008, 20 more alleged members of the art trafficking ring were reportedly taken into custody.

Caravaggio's Taking of Christ (1602)

Caravaggio's "Taking of Christ" had been missing for two years; it's permanent home is the National Gallery of Ireland

Mystery solved

The rescued work - "Taking of Christ," also known as "Kiss of Judas" - was painted in 1602 and is estimated to be worth an eight-figure sum.

The theft from the Museum for Western European and Oriental Art in Odessa sent shock waves across the art world. The whereabouts of the painting, cut from its frame and removed from the museum by unidentified thieves in 2008, were unknown until police determined that the work was meant to change hands in Berlin last Friday.

Caravaggio is known in particular for his chiaroscuro technique, contrasting dark and light in his works. He died young, at just 38, but enjoyed considerable success during his lifetime and is said to have had a major influence on great artists who came after him, including Rembrandt and Rubens.

Author: Kate Bowen (dpa/AFP/KNA)

Editor: Rob Turner

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