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France

Police find priceless paintings in Corsican carpark

DR

Three renaissance Italian paintings and another by French old master Nicolas Poussin were found in a car park in Corsica Friday after a tip-off to magistrates investigating their theft last year from a museum in Ajaccio.

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Virgin and child by Giovanni Bellini
Musée Fesch

The priceless paintings were:

  • Virgin and child by Giovanni Bellini,
  • Pentecost by Mariotto di Nardo,
  • a work by an anyonymous Umbrian artist
  • Midas at the source of the River Pactolus by Nicolas Poussin.

A mysterious caller phoned investigating magistrate Charlotte Dauriac at 8 pm on Friday evening, refusing to give a name and telling her that the artworks could be found in a carpark in the north of the city.

Police found them stacked against a wall, one wrapped in a plastic bag, and took them to be tested for traces of DNA.

Experts say that they would have been difficult to sell illegally because they are so well known.

The paintings will be back on show at the Palais Fesch on Monday, official say.

The paintings went missing on 19 February 2011 in extraordinary circumstances.

Security guard Antoine Mocellini turned himself in on the same day, saying that he had stolen them when he finished his shift at 6am that day.

He claimed to have been acting alone in a bid to be given a home by the city council.

Mocellini claimed that they were still in the boot of his car, which was parked in an abandoned château. But when he took police to it, the vehicle’s windows had been broken and the paintings were not in it.

Police did not believe Mocellini’s story and charged him and a presumed accomplice with plotting to steal the works.

 

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