The famous painting and a second well-known art piece were both stolen, in 2004.
On this day in 2004, at the Munch Museum in Oslo, Norway, a band of thieves managed to steal a pair of famous paintings successfully. However, did they ultimately get away with their crime?
August 22, a typical day of business for the museum halted to a stop when, just after 11 a.m., two thieves clad in ski masks entered the building. The criminals “asked” to see the most famous works. Of the pieces ultimately taken, one was The Scream — one of four versions done by Edvard Munch, and the second, the Madonna, another work done by Munch. During the robbery, one of the robbers ordered everyone to the ground as the other one removed the arts from the wall with a wire cutter. Minutes later, the pair left with the two pieces, collectively estimated to be worth $100 million, and were gone by the time authorities arrived on the scene. Unfortunately, while the thieves were captured on the museum’s security cameras, the quality of the footage was too poor to be of any use in identifying them. According to witnesses to the crime, the robbers were rather clumsy, even dropping the works on their way out.
During the investigation into the theft, the robbers’ getaway vehicle, a black Audi, was found abandoned a short distance from the museum. In the deserted car were the paintings’ frames; the criminals had likely thought the frames could be tracked. In the end, despite their efforts at evading capture, three men suspected in the theft were eventually identified and convicted following a six-week trial. In May of 2006, one of the men, Bjoern Hoen was sentenced to seven years for planning the robbery, while a second man, Petter Rosenvinge to eight years for driving the getaway vehicle, and the third, Petter Tharaldsen to four years for supplying the getaway car. Three additional suspects were ultimately acquitted post-arrest. Hoen and Tharaldsen were also ordered to pay $122 million as compensation to the city of Oslo.
In the search for the masterpieces, a telephone surveillance operation indicated the paintings’ location at a farm, at least at one point.
Finally, roughly two years after the art heist, in August of 2006, authorities reported the recovery of both paintings. Although neither masterpiece was severely damaged, they did suffer damage as a result of mishandling and neglect from their captors. The details were not disclosed as to how or where the paintings were located.
As it turns out, this incident wasn’t the first time a version of The Scream had been stolen in Norway. In 1994, the National Gallery in Oslo was robbed of their version. In this earlier incident, the robbers were even bold enough to leave a note behind, in which they “thanked” the building for the poor security. The painting in that incident was recovered three months later.
In order to prevent future thefts since the 2004 incident, the museum has since upgraded its security.