Paintings returned after 40 years

by Lorraine Williamson
stolen paintings

Over 40 years since their disappearance, the Guardia Civil has recovered two Renaissance paintings that were stolen from the main altarpiece of the Church of Santa Marina de Barcial del Barco, Zamora.

The paintings feature St John the Evangelist and St Peter on one, and on the other St Andrew and St James the Great. They were stolen from the Church in September 1979.

Stolen paintings in 1979

The paintings were originally situated in the altarpiece of the church which was made in 1540. Over the years, the church has been subjected to several thefts of works of art. In 1979 The Annunciation and the Embrace of San Joaquín and Santa Ana before the Golden Gate were also stolen. However, as yet, these have not been recovered.

ID-Art app

The current owner of the two paintings used a state-of-the-art image recognition software app and was, therefore, able to identify them as stolen property. They were listed on Interpol´s Stolen Works of Art Database. This app (ID-Art) is available to the public free of charge and provides access to more than 52,000 stolen works from over 130 countries.

Cogesa Expats

The app is open for use by collectors, art dealers, the general public, journalists, and police and customs officials. People can use the app for the following purposes:

  • Access the INTERPOL Stolen Works of Art Database to check if an object has been stolen.
  • Create an inventory of private art collections.
  • Report the theft of an object.

This provides an excellent example of how the app can be used for locating or identifying stolen objects.

Investigation ongoing

The subsequent investigation to determine how these works could have come into the hands of the current owners is still open. Furthermore, although many years have passed, any clue could lead to the recovery of the other missing works of art.

Return to the church

The Guardia Civil returned the paintings to the Lord Bishop of Zamora. Technical staff from the General Directorate of Cultural Heritage and Fine Arts of the Ministry of Culture and Sports were also present.


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