Danish police have recovered a self-portrait of 17th-century Dutch master Rembrandt stolen in a daring raid on Sweden's National Museum nearly five years ago, and arrested four men, officials said Friday.
French impressionist Pierre-Auguste Renoir's "A Young Parisienne," stolen from the museum along with the Rembrandt and valued at $13 million, was recovered in the United States a few months ago as part of the same undercover operation, but the news was kept quiet as agents pursued the final missing masterpiece, U.S. law enforcement officials disclosed Friday.
Two Iraqis, a Gambian and a Swede were caught in a police sting while showing the $40 million Rembrandt to a potential buyer at a Copenhagen hotel late on Thursday, Danish police said.
"We will have to continue the investigation to see if there are more people involved," said police spokesman Flemming Steen Munch, adding that the prospective buyer was not a suspect. If guilty, the men could face up to six years in prison.
The news was well received in Sweden. Gorel Cavalli-Bjorkman, head of research at Sweden's National Museum and a Rembrandt expert, said she "jumped with joy! I had expected it would be recovered at some point, I was just hoping we would get it back before I retired."
Munch said the painting seemed to be in good condition, but Cavalli-Bjorkman said the museum's art restorer would take a closer look.
The painting, as well as two masterworks by Renoir, were stolen when an armed gang entered the museum on Stockholm's waterfront just before closing time in December 2000. While one man brandished a submachine gun in the lobby, two others seized the paintings from the second floor. As they escaped, scattering spikes on the road to delay pursuers, two cars exploded nearby, creating a diversion. The men then made off in a small boat, which was later recovered.
Renoir's "Conversation" was recovered by Swedish police in 2001.
In another high-profile art robbery , a version of Norwegian artist Edvard Munch's "The Scream" was stolen from an Oslo museum last year.