Emil Nolde, Christ to Emmaus, 1904.

Stolen Painting Returned After Failed Ransom Attempt

Police and prosecutors in Flensburg, Germany, announced that a painting by Emil Nolde that was stolen four years ago from a Danish church in Ølstrup, near Ringkøbing, Denmark, was returned following a failed extortion attempt, according to Monopol. Titled Christ to Emmaus, 1904, the work hung in the church from 1939 until it was stolen in 2014.

In September 2016 the perpetrator demanded approximately $160,000 for the piece. The Nolde Foundation Seebüll in Neukirchen, Germany, refused to pay the ransom. Instead, it contacted the district police and the prosecutor’s office in Flensburg, which launched an investigation. The alleged extorter used encrypted software to communicate with the foundation, but the police were eventually led to a law firm with ties to a prisoner who had assisted the thief from jail. The prosecution convinced the prisoner to help mediate the return of the painting, though the identity of his accomplice is still unknown.

Astrid Becker, deputy director of the foundation, said the recovery of the work was a cause for celebration. Danmarks Radio reported that the Ølstrup’s pastor, Inge-Dorthe Brønden Kaasgaard, was overjoyed by the news. The painting is a pivotal, early work by the artist and was commissioned for a Danish noble family.