The stolen paintings were returned to Peru

The stolen paintings were returned to Peru

The US returns to Peru paintings stolen in Puno that were going to be auctioned in New York

In October 2023, OjoPúblico provided key evidence that allowed the auction of two paintings to be stopped hours before their execution and expedited the recovery process. The works were stolen in February 2012 from the Nuestra Señora de la Asunción parish, in the district of Chucuito.

The United States authorities returned to Peru two important canvases from the Cusco School that were reported stolen for more than ten years, until in October 2023 they reappeared in a lot that was put up for sale by a New York auction house. The paintings, which left the country illegally on an unknown date, belong to the Nuestra Señora de la Asunción parish, in the district of Chucuito, Puno, and were detected in the American city within the framework of an investigation by OjoPúblico on the trafficking of cultural goods from Peru.

These are the paintings The Flight into Egypt and Our Lady of Mercy, which the Doyle House, in Manhattan, announced as part of a sale of Latin American art from different periods and styles. The sale was suspended just before the hour announced by the company itself, after receiving conclusive evidence from OjoPúblico that they were two works stolen from Peru in February 2012. Among the documentation provided by this medium were images of a handwritten inventory that recorded the existence of the works in the Puno church in 2004, and of the field records made in 2003 by INC experts, with photos of the works as they were at the time.

The comparison of the old images with those shown on the auction site left few doubts among art experts consulted at the time for this investigation.
As reported by this medium in a first report on the case, the works also appeared in a theft alert issued by the Ministry of Culture that circulated internationally in 2015. There it is realized that both pieces were part of the theft of 16 objects from the temple's historical heritage, among which were crowns, powers and six canvases. The recovered paintings were going to be sold for prices between 7 and 12 thousand dollars.

The case prompted the intervention of the Antiquities Trafficking Unit of the Manhattan Prosecutor's Office and the investigation unit of the United States National Security agency. The announcement of the repatriation was made today in a ceremony with the presence of representatives of both entities and Ambassador Marita Landavery, Consul General of Peru in New York.
This is an unusual case of recovery of cultural objects offered for sale in international art markets. Generally, the lack of sufficient and timely documentation prevents proving the origin of heritage works and objects, which end up in private hands.

"We are proud of the active role we have played in the recovery of these two works of art," said Louis LeB. Webre, director of the Doyle house, in statements published by the Artnet site, specialized in coverage of the international art market.

This is a recovery similar to the one that occurred in 2022 on a canvas of the Virgin of Guadalupe, which was stolen from a church in Ollantaytambo, in Cusco, and remained lost until OjoPúblico detected the work in a Catholic church in California. Then, this medium also presented evidence that allowed its recovery from the United States, along with a batch of cultural property stolen at various times.

"No one can stop the looting - human greed is very great - but together we can make a difference," a source from the Antiquities Trafficking Unit of the Manhattan Prosecutor's Office, who followed the case of the Puno paintings from the beginning, told OjoPúblico.