A Painting Stolen From an Oxford College’s Gallery Is Recovered in Romania

The painting was stolen in 2020 along with two others, which remain missing.

The recovered Salvator Rosa painting. Photo: Christ Church Picture Gallery.

A painting by Salvator Rosa stolen in a heist from the Christ Church Picture Gallery in Oxford, the U.K., more than four years ago has been recovered by British police with assistance from Romanian authorities.

Rosa’s painting—an Italian Baroque landscape titled A Rocky Coast, with Soldiers Studying a Plan—was stolen along with two others from the museum in March 2020, said James Mather, a detective chief inspector with the Thames Valley Police, in a video statement. It was not clear how the thieves broke into the museum and made away with the works, which were then valued at $12 million.

“We are pleased that through developing close working relationships with the Romanian authorities, facilitated by Eurojust and Europol, one of the paintings by Salvator Rosa has been discovered,” Mather said. “This is a significant development in the investigation. However, two of the paintings remain missing.”

 In this painting, a man is tilting his head back to pour a liquid into his mouth from a small glass vial, holding a transparent bulbous flask filled with a dark amber liquid in his other hand. His gaze is fixed on the vial, and light illuminates his face, the vial, and the flask, creating a stark contrast with the dark background. The man’s attire seems to be from a bygone era, possibly indicating the painting’s historical context.

Annibale Carraci. A Boy Drinking (ca. 1580). Photo courtesy of Thames Valley Police

The two other paintings that were stolen in the same raid are Anthony van Dyck’s A Soldier on Horseback (ca. 1617) and Annibale Carracci’s A Boy Drinking (ca. 1580). both have been on display since 1768 at Christ Church.

“From information provided by Romanian authorities, we know that these two paintings were sold on in Romania but now could be anywhere in Europe,” Mather said.

Eurojust, the European Union Agency for Criminal Cooperation, said in its own statement that the three works are estimated to be about $12.4 million.

This image depicts a figure on horseback, rendered with loose brushwork against a subdued background. The horse, in mid-stride, appears spirited, and is presented in a three-quarter view facing left. The rider wears a broad-brimmed hat and a ruffled collar, suggestive of 17th-century European attire. The impressionistic style conveys movement and a dynamic quality, even as both the rider and the horse appear composed. The color palette is limited, emphasizing earth tones.

Anthony van Dyck. A Soldier on Horseback (ca. 1617). Photo courtesy of Thames Valley Police

The Rosa painting was recovered after the man in possession of it contacted Romanian police and said he had sold the two other works but chose to return the Rosa painting. “The man is being treated as a witness by the Romanian authorities and has not been arrested,” Eurojust said in its statement.

The Christ Church Picture Gallery said in a statement that it is “thrilled” to have one of its masterpieces safely returned and hopes that anyone with information about the whereabouts of the two other works comes forward.

“We’re grateful to the Romanian authorities and Thames Valley Police for their help in retrieving this priceless work and returning it to our gallery,” curator Jacqueline Thalmann said. “Not only do the paintings form a significant part of our collection, but their significance to our British and European culture is inestimable.”

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