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Culture

Stolen Impressionist Masterpieces Found Near Zurich Museum

Two of the four impressionist masterpieces stolen in Zurich were discovered undamaged just a short distance from the museum where they had been taken earlier this month in an armed heist.

Claude Monet's Poppies near Vetheuil

Claude Monet's "Poppies near Vetheuil" is now in good hands

Swiss police confirmed that the two paintings, one by Claude Monet and another by Vincent van Gogh, were found on Wednesday, Feb. 20, in an abandoned car parked in front of a psychiatric clinic near the Emil Buehrle Museum where they had on display.

Vincent van Gogh's Blossoming Chestnut Branches

Vincent van Gogh's "Blossoming Chestnut Branches"

Together, Monet's "Poppies Near Vetheuil" (1879) and van Gogh's "Blossoming Chestnut Branch" (1890) are worth 70 million Swiss francs ($64 million, 44 million euros).

"Both paintings are still in perfect condition," said museum director Lukas Gloor, who identified the works. He did not say whether ransom had been paid for them.

Police said a clinic employee alerted them to the suspicious vehicle, where the two paintings were found in the backseat, still in their glass covering from the museum.

More valuable works still lost

Paul Cezanne's The Boy in the Red Vest

Paul Cezanne's "The Boy in the Red Vest"

The theft on Feb. 10 was the biggest ever art robbery in Switzerland. Three masked men reportedly entered the museum shortly before closing. One of them, holding a gun, forced visitors and staff to the ground while his accomplices removed the four masterpieces from the wall. The entire heist lasted three minutes.

"Count Lepic and his Daughters" (1871) by Edgar Degas and "Boy in a Red Waistcoat" (1888) by Paul Cezanne -- valued together at some 110 million Swiss francs -- are still missing.

Gloor said after the robbery that the works were so well known that it would be difficult for the thieves to sell them on the black market. The three robbers are still at large.

Slew of art robberies

The museum houses the collection of the German-born industrial Emil Buehrle, who made his fortune selling munitions to both the Allied and Axis powers during World War II. His collection, which he mainly acquired in the 1950s, focuses on key works from Impressionist painters.

Edgar Degas' Ludovic Lepic and his Daughter

Edgar Degas' "Ludovic Lepic and his Daughter"

Last week's high-profile robbery was the latest in a recent series of art burglaries. Four days earlier, two Picassos, on loan from a collection in Hanover, were stolen from an exhibition in Pfaeffikon, near Zurich.

Swiss police said that 31 works of art also had been stolen from an apartment near Zurich in two separate robberies over the past month.

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