The Un-Recovered Van Eyck

Art works are stolen from museums and it is the highest priority for both the museum and police officials to recover the painting. However, there have been cases where the paintings have never been recovered, or not yet been recovered.

One such painting, from the never been recovered category is that of the ‘The Just Judges’, painted by the Eyck brothers between 1430–32. It was part of an altarpiece ‘Adoration of the Mystic Lamb’ (also known as the Ghent Altarpiece), and was stolen during the night of 10 April 1934 from Saint Bavo Cathedral in Ghent, Belgium where it was displayed with the rest of the altarpiece.

This painting is the lower left panel of the Ghent Altarpiece, painted by Jan van Eyck or his brother Hubert Van Eyck. It was stolen in 1934 and has never been found. Shortly after the theft, the thief/thieves started a letter correspondence with the police and 11 letters were exchanged. A ransom of one million Belgian francs was asked for and in good faith the ransomer returned one part of the panel. The self-proclaimed thief, Arsène Goedertier, revealed on his deathbed that he was the only one who knew where the painting was and would take the secret to his grave. To this day, a police detective remains assigned to this case.


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