Police in Spain have recovered the last part of a valuable 17th century Flemish tapestry stolen from a Spanish church by notorious art thief Erik ‘The Belgian’ in 1980.
The Spanish National Police said in a press release on Friday, 18th February, that they had recovered the last missing part of the tapestry ‘La apoteosis de las artes’
The 17th century Flemish work, whose title translates as ‘The Apotheosis of the Arts’, was stolen from the Church of Santo Domingo in Castrojeriz.
Castrojeriz is a town and municipality in the province of Burgos in the Spanish region of Castile and Leon. It is known for being a stop along the Way of St James.
It was stolen by notorious art thief Rene Alphonse van den Berghe, better known in Spain as Erik el Belga (Erik the Belgian) in 1980.
Born in Nivelles, Belgium, in 1940, he was one of the most prolific art thieves in Europe in the 20th century before his death in Malaga, Spain, in 2020.
Though he was an art dealer, restorer, painter and writer, he was better known for committing numerous robberies in churches and chapels.
He led a group dedicated to plundering works of sacred art and was sometimes commissioned by wealthy art collectors who were interested in a specific artwork.
He was arrested in Barcelona in 1982, but his lawyer collaborated with the authorities to recover a large part of the works he had stolen.
However, the final missing piece of ‘La apoteosis de las artes’, which was made by Corneille Schutz in Bruges in 1654, was feared lost.
He contacted the aforementioned lawyer, who provided him with information that helped with the investigation.
According to the Spanish National Police, “the piece was finally handed over to officers by the lawyer”. It was then passed onto the Archdiocese of Burgos.
Before his death, Erik el Belga told Spanish newspaper El Mundo: “I’m a son of a b*tch, I’ve done very bad things, although in Spain everyone speaks well of me, because I have collaborated to recover many works.”