In recent art world news, the Peruvian consulate in New York announced earlier this week the recovery of two paintings stolen from an Andean village chapel in Peru. An art collector based in California, in cooperation with Christie’s, has voluntarily returned the missing works, which are set for repatriation to Peru.
The return of the works represents some headway to solving a number of crimes in Peru. In particular, from 1991 to 2000, thieves raided the Virgen del Rosario chapel in Hualahoyo, Junín, Peru. During that period, the loss of prized works was significant, including a series of 21 Biblical paintings that were commissioned for the chapel by Franciscans in the late 17th century. With minimal surveillance, Peru’s historic churches located in remote areas of the country are frequent targets for art theft.
The art collector had inherited both works, namely, Los Sacrificios de Cain y Abel and El Diluvio, from her late father, who bought the paintings for $20,000 from a gallery in California in 1997 and was unaware of their linkage to the chapel. The paintings were said to be created by “an unknown follower of Peruvian master Diego Quispe Tito (1611-81).” At the time the works were consigned by the collector to Christie’s New York in 2015, such works caught the attention of a museum curator based in Peru. The collector, along with support from Christie’s, sought to immediately return the works once having been notified. Both paintings have a combined estimate of between $15,000 and $20,000.
The Peruvian government is reportedly “being very aggressive” in reclaiming the stolen treasures from its country. The stolen works are not the first paintings from the chapel to be recovered. In 2001, three paintings were discovered in Chile. Over a decade later, in 2012, the FBI seized another work, La Creación de Eva, from Peyton Wright Gallery in Santa Fe, New Mexico, by acting on information from the Ministry of Culture in Peru. The two works are set to reunite with the other four recovered works at the Museo de la Nación in Lima, Peru.
Hopefully, the remaining missing works that were stolen from the chapel will be recovered at some point in time so all the works can be reunited and displayed together at the museum.