Two masterworks that were stolen from a Zurich art museum last week were found in good condition in an unlocked car parked outside a nearby psychiatric hospital, Swiss police said Tuesday. Two other paintings are still missing, they said.
The recovered paintings - Claude Monet's Poppies Near Vetheuil (1879) and Vincent van Gogh's Blossoming Chestnut Branches (1890) - were found by a 56-year-old parking lot attendant who contacted police about 4 p.m. Monday.
The paintings, worth $64-million combined, were still under the display glass used by the private museum from which they were stolen in a Feb. 10 armed robbery, museum director Lukas Gloor said.
"I am incredibly relieved that two paintings have returned," Gloor said.
The other two paintings taken from the private E.G. Buehrle Collection - Ludovic Lepic and His Daughters (1871) by Edgar Degas and The Boy in the Red Waistcoat (1894-95) by Paul Cezanne - remain missing, police said. Together, the four paintings are worth an estimated $163-million.
Art experts have suggested that the robbers took advantage of what appeared to be an easy mark - a low-security museum - without knowing much about art or how difficult it can be to sell such widely known works.
"The robbery was not done with knowledge about art," Gloor said.
The robbers took the first four paintings they came across when they raided the museum shortly before closing on a Sunday afternoon. Although they managed to take the most valuable painting in the collection - The Boy in the Red Waistcoat - they passed over the second-most valuable picture, another Cezanne.
Gloor said he suspected the robbers abandoned the two paintings, which were the largest of the four, because their size complicated transporting them.
"We must not forget that two more paintings of our collection are still missing, including our collection's landmark,Boy in the Red Waistcoat," he said.
That painting is worth $91-million. Ludovic Lepic and His Daughters is worth $9-million.
Zurich police spokesman Marco Cortesi said the clinic employee who found the paintings would get a part of a $90,000 reward.
Information from the Washington Post and Associated Press was used in this report.