Bolivia recovers two paintings stolen from church
Sep 19, 2011
On Christmas Eve in 1997, more than a hundred religious artefacts were stolen from the Church (Templo) of San Andres de Machaca in La Paz, Bolivia. The church, declared a Bolivian National Monument in 1962, had been the target of thieves several years earlier before being stripped of its colonial masterpieces in 1997. The theft was reported to the Bolivian Ministry of Culture and Interpol.
In May 2011, these two paintings were located in the hands of a U.S. based art dealer who claimed to have received the paintings on consignment from an elderly American collector. The paintings were conclusively identified as the stolen portraits of ‘Saint Rose of Viterbo’ and ‘Saint Augustin’ from several unique areas of damage thanks to the good quality archival photographs taken by the church prior to the theft.
Christopher A. Marinello, a lawyer who specialises in recovering stolen art handled the complicated negotiations that brought these iconic pictures back to Bolivia. “This case is emblematic of the cooperation between the public and the private sector, a relationship that, in my view, is crucial to the protection of cultural heritage worldwide.”
In a brief ceremony at the Bolivian Embassy in London on 12 September 2011, the paintings were returned to Ambassador Maria Beatriz Souviron Crespo on behalf of the Bolivian Ministry of Culture.