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Stove ashes probed for traces of stolen Picasso, Matisse, Monet works

By Saskya Vandoorne, Laura Smith-Spark and Liliana Ciobanu, CNN
July 19, 2013 -- Updated 2128 GMT (0528 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Experts analyze ashes found in a stove to see if they are the remains of stolen artwork
  • Works by Matisse, Picasso and Monet were among paintings taken from a Dutch museum
  • Six people have been charged in Romania in connection with the theft last year
  • There are traces of pigments in the ashes from the stove of one of those charged, official says

(CNN) -- Ashes found in the stove of a Romanian home have become the focus of investigations into the theft of seven valuable paintings by artists including Picasso, Matisse and Monet -- amid fears they may have gone up in smoke.

Experts from Romania's National History Museum have been analyzing the ashes for traces of paint and other chemicals that would confirm whether the works stolen last year from a Dutch museum have been destroyed.

The ashes come from the stove of one of the people indicted in the case, Ernest Oberlander-Tarnoveanu, general director of Romania's National History Museum said Thursday.

Italy's Culture Ministry unveils two paintings by the French artists Paul Gauguin and Pierre Bonnard on Tuesday, April 2. The paintings, worth millions of euros, were stolen from a family house in London in 1970, abandoned on a train and then later sold at a lost-property auction, where a factory worker paid 45,000 Italian lire for them -- roughly equivalent to 22 euros ($30). Italy's Culture Ministry unveils two paintings by the French artists Paul Gauguin and Pierre Bonnard on Tuesday, April 2. The paintings, worth millions of euros, were stolen from a family house in London in 1970, abandoned on a train and then later sold at a lost-property auction, where a factory worker paid 45,000 Italian lire for them -- roughly equivalent to 22 euros ($30).
Notorious art heists
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Photos: Notorious art heists Photos: Notorious art heists
On March 18, 1990, a pair of thieves disguised as Boston police officers entered the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum and stole 13 priceless works of art. Twelve of the 13 pieces stolen are included in this gallery. Here you see one of five "Gouache" drawings by Edgar Degas. On March 18, 1990, a pair of thieves disguised as Boston police officers entered the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum and stole 13 priceless works of art. Twelve of the 13 pieces stolen are included in this gallery. Here you see one of five "Gouache" drawings by Edgar Degas.
The search for stolen masterpieces
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The search for stolen masterpieces The search for stolen masterpieces
Thief gets away with $200,000 Picasso

"Works of art and paintings have been burned and there are traces of typical red, yellow and green pigments," he told CNN affiliate ProTV.

But it's not yet confirmed whether these traces are all that remains of the stolen artwork.

Six people have been charged by the Romanian public prosecutor's office in connection with the theft from the Kunsthal museum in the Dutch city of Rotterdam on the night of October 15 last year.

Three men, Radu Dogaru, Darie Eugen and Adrian Procop, are charged with robbery counts.

A woman, Olga Dogaru, is accused of complicity in the crime by transporting and hiding the stolen artwork, the prosecutor's office said.

Two other defendants are accused of helping the alleged thieves by trying to value or sell the paintings.

The paintings, in oil and watercolor, include Pablo Picasso's "Harlequin Head," Henri Matisse's "Reading Girl in White and Yellow," Claude Monet's Waterloo Bridge" and "Charing Cross Bridge," and "Woman with Eyes Closed" by Lucian Freud. Works by Gauguin and Meyer de Haan were also taken.

The loss resulting from the theft is estimated at €18 million, the prosecutor's office said.

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