KIEV (Reuters) - Ukrainian and German police have recovered a painting by 17th century Italian artist Caravaggio stolen from a Ukrainian museum, the Interfax news agency quoted Ukraine’s interior minister as saying on Tuesday.
The painting, called the “Taking of Christ,” or the “Kiss of Judas,” and considered the most valuable piece of art in Ukraine, was stolen from a museum in the Black Sea port of Odessa in 2008 in what officials described as a “cultural catastrophe.”
“On June 25, in Berlin, Ukraine’s Interior Ministry agents together with their German colleagues detained three Ukrainian citizens and one citizen of Germany and recovered Caravaggio’s painting,” Interior Minister Anatoly Mogylyov told a briefing.
It was recovered in Germany, where the four were detained.
Mogylyov said another suspected member of the gang, which focused on high-value thefts, had been detained in Ukraine.
“We have carried out more than 20 searches and proven (the group’s) involvement in more than 20 thefts in Ukraine,” he said.
The painting had been bought by a Russian ambassador to France and presented as a gift to a Russian prince before being turned over to the Odessa museum last century.
Doubts had been expressed about the painting’s authenticity, but Soviet art experts in the 1950s confirmed the work was indeed by Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio. It underwent restoration work in 2006.
A version of the same painting by Caravaggio hangs in the National Gallery of Ireland in Dublin.
Writing by Olzhas Auyezov; Editing by Richard Balmforth