7:30am

Thu April 12, 2012
The Two-Way

Stolen Cezanne Portrait Surfaces In Serbia

A stolen painting thought to be by Paul Cezanne turned up early today in Serbia, when police arrested three people in connection with its theft.

Authorities haven't identified the painting, and AP says Serbian police are flying in an art expert to authenticate it. But news reports suggest it could be Cezanne's "Boy In A Red Waistcoat" stolen during a brazen holdup in 2008 at the Buhrle Collection in Switzerland.

The thieves, who rushed in just before the private museum closed, drew weapons and ordered frightened patrons to lay down on the ground, then snatched four portraits, including "Boy", off the wall. The New York Times (paywall) says witnesses reported the paintings were sticking out of the back of the getaway van as the men fled.

Authorities quickly found two paintings a few days later - they were stuffed in a car parked in a Zurich mental hospital. These were paintings by Claude Monet and Vincent van Gogh. While today's find could be the Cezanne, there's been no word of the fourth stolen painting by Paul Degas.

As you might guess, they're valuable: Reuters says the four stolen works were estimated to be worth $163 million dollars when they were taken.

Serbian media site Blic reports police also detained three Serbian suspects in Belgrade as part of a crackdown on organized crime. The report says last night's action was "spectacular" and involved special traffic police.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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