It was a day that Amsterdam's Van Gogh Museum may have never thought would come. "The paintings have been found!" Axel Rueger, the museum's director, said at a Naples, Italy, press conference Friday, per a release. Those paintings, according to NBC News, are two of the master's works that were lifted from the museum in 2002, said to be of "priceless value" and recovered by Italian police during a mob sting, officials say. Congregation Leaving the Reformed Church in Nuenen and View of the Sea at Scheveningen, painted by the artist in the 1880s, were recovered by anti-Mafia cops poking around in a probe into the Camorra crime syndicate. "Despite a 14-year journey, the two paintings appear to be in fairly good condition," a museum press release says, noting the pieces are sans frames and look to have suffered "some damage."
Adriaan Donszelmann, the museum's managing director, tells the New York Times that the museum got a call Tuesday from police asking the museum to send an art specialist to check out the two paintings they had retrieved in a house raid. The artworks were deemed authentic, CNN notes. "It was absolutely exciting," Donszelmann says. An art crimes investigator notes it's fortuitous the paintings were even discovered, explaining that valuable paintings such as these are often victims of "art-napping" by members of organized crime that are then used as barter within Mafia families. Art thief Octave Durham, also known as "the Monkey," was sentenced to prison in 2004 for the theft, per the Times, but the paintings were never found—until now. (The Guardian explores the link between the Mafia underworld and valuable art.)