Stolen 18th-Century Jesus Painting Turns Up on eBay

The repatriation of a stolen Polish oil painting depicting Jesus ascending into heaven.

Some twenty years after it was stolen from Saint Martin Roman Catholic Church in Siciny, Poland, an 18th-century painting, Ascension of Christ, has been returned to the country’s secretary of state thanks to an eBay sale, reports Discovery News.

The 9-by-12-inch oil painting is on an oval-shaped wooden board and depicts the resurrected Jesus ascending into heaven as his apostles watch. Details about the theft remain vague; according to Discovery News, it was stolen at some point between 1988 and 1996.

The work resurfaced on eBay in early 2012 with an opening bid of $22,000, as well as the option to “Buy it Now” for $35,750. The auction came to the attention of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), who realized the Polish painting had been smuggled into the US.

No one has been arrested or charged since the painting was recovered in Brooklyn by HSI agents. The eBay user responsible for the sale was unaware that the piece, which had been given to his father in exchange for plumbing services, was stolen.

Recently, U.S. officials returned the painting to Poland’s secretary of state of the ministry of culture and national heritage, Piotr Zuchowski in a ceremony.

In a statement, HSI Office of International Affairs deputy assistant director David Thompson reaffirmed his agency’s commitment to returning stolen cultural artifacts, saying that “the theft of this cherished painting has been a great loss to the people of Poland. After all these years, it is now going back where it belongs—to the people of Poland.”

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