Italian officials have recovered two priceless van Gogh paintings from the home of a man linked to an international drug-smuggling ring.
The two fairly small paintings were stolen from the Vincent van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam back in 2002.
The thieves used a ladder to break into a second-story window, snatched the paintings and escaped by sliding down a rope, according to the Washington Post.
Luckily, the thieves left enough DNA evidence at the scene and were quickly captured.
After all those years, you no longer dare to count on a possible return.
The paintings, however, had vanished without a trace and after 14 years, authorities had lost hope that they would be located.
But last week, the museum received some positive news about the missing paintings.
"Seascape at Scheveningen"
Italian investigators raided the home of drug kingpin, Mafioso Raffaele Imperiale, and found the long-lost masterpieces.
Authorities found van Gogh's "Congregation Leaving the Reformed Church in Nuenen" and "View of the Sea at Scheveningen," wrapped in cloth inside a safe.
The museum released a statement saying that the stolen paintings are still in fairly good condition, although their frames were removed.
"Congregation Leaving the Reformed Church"
In the statement, the museum explained how the recovered paintings will fill gaps in its collection:
"'Seascape at Scheveningen' is the only painting in our museum collection dating from Van Gogh's period in The Hague (1881-1883). It is one of the only two seascapes that he painted during his years in the Netherlands and it is a striking example of Van Gogh's early style of painting, already showing his highly individual character. The hoped-for forthcoming return of the Seascape will fill an important gap in the museum presentation.
'Congregation leaving the Reformed Church in Nuenen' is a small canvas that Van Gogh painted for his mother in early 1884. It shows the church of the Reformed Church community in the Brabant village of Nuenen, Van Gogh's father being its Minister. In 1885, after his father's death, Van Gogh reworked the painting and added the churchgoers in the foreground, among them a few women in shawls worn in times of mourning. This may be a reference to his father's death. The strong biographical undertones make this a work of great emotional value."
It is still unclear whether the paintings were sitting in the safe for 14 years.
The museum said in a statement that the paintings "were not preserved under suitable conditions." The museum noted that a 2-inch-by-1-inch chunk of paint had fallen off of the bottom left corner of "Seascape at Scheveningen."
"Congregation leaving the Reformed Church in Nuenen" had only minor damages at the edge of the canvas.
A conservator is working to determine the exact condition of the paintings.
The recovered paintings will also serve as pieces of evidence in a case that's put 11 people behind bars, according to the Associated Press.
"We have been waiting for this moment for 14 years," Rüger said. "And naturally the only thing you want is to take them straight home with you. But we will have to exercise a little bit more patience, but I am convinced that we can count on the support of the Italian authorities."