The Russian police has recovered on Monday the oil of the landscaper Arjip Kuindzhi, rObado Sunday before the gaze of dozens of visitors in the Tretyakov Gallery, the most prestigious museum in Moscow. The work, entitled Ai-Petri. Crimea, which represents the mountain range of the same name – the most touristy on the peninsula that Russia annexed to Ukraine in 2014 – was the subject of one of the strangest and most brazen robberies in recent history. There is a detainee, according to Russian authorities, has a history of possession of drugs.
The painting was stolen on Sunday afternoon. The security cameras of the museum show how a man walks calmly towards the painting, stops to look at it, picks it up and leaves, before the eyes of those who were watching him at that moment. Most thought he was an employee of the gallery, as witnesses later reported. The alarm was not activated because some employees also confused the thief with an employee. In the networks the strange case has aroused many suspicions.
Painting is important, but in the Tretyakov Gallery there are other works that are much more valuable, such as Portrait of a girl with peaches, by Serov, or Holy Trinity, by Andri Rublev. So, the theory that it could be more of a kidnapping or a form of political action ran like foam: in March it will be five years since the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, signed the annexation of Crimea from Ukraine to Russia, and turned the peninsula into the epicenter of one of the biggest international crises since the disintegration of the USSR in 1991.
The detainee has told the police that he "did not commit any crime" and that he could not remember where he was on Sunday, according to the interrogation video posted on the Internet by Russian authorities. The man, 31, was released on bail since last December for possession of drugs. If convicted of the theft, he can face up to 15 years in prison.
The oil painting (painted between 1898 and 1908) has been located in a construction site, on the outskirts of Moscow. It has not suffered damages, according to the authorities. The picture is insured for about 12 million rubles (around 160,000 euros), although different sources have commented to the Russian press that its value in auctions can reach three million dollars. Its author, Arjip Kuindzh, is one of the most famous Russian landscape painters.
Arjip Kuindzhi was born in Mariupol (now Ukraine) just 176 years ago and became one of the Russia's most famous landscape painters. Since October 6, some of his works – some 170, the best – were exhibited in the Tretyakov Gallery in a temporary exhibition that ends on February 17. The stolen painting, created between 1898 and 1908, represents a mountain landscape of one of the most famous tourist attractions in Crimea: Ai-Petri. The canvas was brought to Moscow from the Russian State Museum in St. Petersburg.
For the Tretyakov Gallery -considered the second most important museum in Russia, after the Hermitage in St. Petersburg-, the theft of Kuindzhi's painting is the second serious incident in less than a year: in May 2018, a visitor stabbed the painting 'Ivan the Terrible' (also known as "Ivan the Terrible kills his son"), of Ilya Repin. The man, who later claimed to be drunk, broke the glass that protected the canvas with a metallic object and hit him. The Ministry of Culture has already declared that it will carry out an inspection of the museum's security measures.