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Items Stolen in 1983 Are Back in the Louvre

Expert spotted the pieces of 16th-century Italian armor in a private collection
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 8, 2021 5:04 PM CST

(Newser) – An expert in military antiquities summoned to appraise the items in a French family's collection turned to a modern tool—a database of missing artifacts—after seeing the pieces. The appraiser then called the police: Two pieces of 16th-century Italian armor in the collection had been stolen from the Louvre in 1983. The ceremonial helmet and breastplate are now back at the museum, the BBC reports. The Louvre hasn't revealed, or doesn't know, much about the theft or where the items have been. They were taken from a showcase overnight, and the Bordeaux family said they were inherited. Police are investigating. "I was certain we would see them reappear one day," said the museum's chief curator of heritage artworks, adding, "But I could never have imagined that it would work out so well—that they would be in France and still together."

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The pieces, thought to have been made in Milan between 1560 and 1580, were donated to the Louvre in 1922 by the Rothschild family. Museums often try to avoid a lot of publicity about thefts, fearing they'd reveal a shortcoming in their security or give thieves an idea, per the New York Times. They also fear they could be pushing the thieves to destroy or dismantle the pieces rather than be caught. "But researchers in the last couple of decades have been saying, ‘Look, guys, you're not going to get anything back if people don’t know it's missing,'" an art crime expert said. "So museums are rather reluctantly publicizing thefts more, which has resulted in a lot more recovery of things." Overall, little stolen art is ever located, though about 40% of pieces taken from museums is returned—partly because the loot is recognizable. Pieces taken from museum storage often aren't missed for years. (Read more The Louvre stories.)

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