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After 13 years, two heritage paintings returned to Bolivia
  Flight into Egypt and Our Lady of Candelaria are two paintings that will be returned to Bolivia over 10 years after they were stolen from the Church of St. Martin in the city of Potosí, in 2002

 
26 February 2015/ Ministry of Cultures and Tourism, Bolivia

These two heritage paintings form part of a series of works on the life of the Virgin, and according to their date of register, the 17th century in the first case, and the 18th-century in the second case, they form part of Bolivia’s cultural heritage.

Lupita Meneses, Head of Registration and Catalogue at the Heritage Department of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, ratified that “the theft of these two heritage artworks in 2002 was made known through the media, which is why they are registered in INTERPOL’s stolen works database in France.

Meneses specified that the Ministry sent its official file to the diplomatic mission in New York, immediately after the information was received that the two paintings were in the United States, proving that the paintings formed part of Bolivia’s cultural heritage. “The catalogue information, the reports of the robbery, the press releases of the time showing the ownership of the colonial paintings were duly sent.”

The date of their return has not been determined as yet, but it is expected that it will take place in mid-March or April. Once the paintings are returned to Bolivia, the Heritage Department will examine the state of conservation, the authenticity of the paintings, and the information will be checked against the Ministry’s official records.

“The next step would be to return the paintings to their place of origin, but every precaution should be taken, inspecting the security measures existing in the Temple, for example, if it has an alarm system, if there are persons in charge of safeguarding this property, because it would be a risk to return the paintings only for them to be stolen again. The collectors who will return the paintings demanded that they be located in a safe place”, asserted Meneses.

Antecedents

The first painting titled Flight into Egypt dates from the 17th century, while Our Lady of Candelaria is from the 18th century. Both correspond to the baroque style, in the specialty of easel painting. They are oil works by anonymous painters.

Richard and Roberta Huber are U.S. art collectors and they bought the paintings at a private art gallery in São Paulo, Brazil. Since they were severely damaged, they had them restored by two U.S. curators specializing in Andean colonial art from the Brooklyn Museum in New York.

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