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Police recover stolen Munch masterpieces

Police recovered two paintings they believe are the Edvard Munch masterpieces “The Scream” and “Madonna,” two years after masked gunmen seized the priceless artworks from an Oslo museum in a bold, daylight raid, authorities announced Thursday.

Both paintings, stolen from the Munch Museum in August 2004, were in better-than-expected condition, police said at a news conference.

“The pictures came into our hands this afternoon after a successful police action,” said Iver Stensrud, head of the police investigation. “All that remains is an expert examination to confirm with 100 percent certainty, that these are the original paintings. We believe these are the originals,” Stensrud said.

“I saw the paintings myself today, and there was far from the damage that could have been feared,” he said.

They were recovered following the conviction of three suspects in the case in May, an international police hunt and the offer of a nearly $300,000 reward by the City of Oslo, which owns the artworks.

During the hunt for the paintings, Norwegian news media reported that they might have been burned to get rid of evidence.

Stensrud said it was not possible for the news media, or the public, to see the paintings yet. He also refused to discuss the methods or details of the search that led to the stolen artworks.

Munch’s emotionally charged painting style became a major influence in the birth of the 20th-century expressionist movement.

The two paintings recovered Thursday were part of his “Frieze of Life” series, focusing on sickness, death, anxiety and love. “The Scream,” which shows a waif-like figure apparently screaming or hearing a scream, has become a modern icon of human anxiety. There are three other versions of the painting.

Munch died in 1944 at the age of 80.

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