Thefts News Denmark

Altarpiece by Nolde stolen from Danish church

The painting was probably taken during the day, when the church is open to the public but often empty

Emil Nolde's Christ at Emmaus, 1904

A painting by the German-Danish artist Emil Nolde (1867-1956) has been stolen from a church in Denmark. Christ at Emmaus, 1904, was part of the altarpiece in the Ølstrup Church near Ringkøbing, in western Jutland.

The theft was discovered by the church’s verger on the morning of Tuesday 11 March, says Poul Madsen of Ringkøbing police, but the work could have been taken any time during the previous day. “Churches are unattended at night and even in the day there is often no one there. They are places where you have a lot of time on your own,” Madsen says. There is no evidence of a break-in, so the robbery is believed to have occurred in the day when the church was open to the public.

“We never thought of our church as an art museum. Everyone should be able to come inside and sit down without being surveyed by video cameras,” says Inge-Dorthe Brønden Kaasgard, the vicar. “We have always been very proud of the painting.”

While a struggling artist, Nolde was married to the daughter of the church's pastor. In 1904, the church commissioned him to paint the altarpiece for which he was paid 340.57 krone. The work has hung in the church ever since and is now estimated to be worth 100m krone ($1.8m) on the open market.

Meanwhile, a major Emil Nolde retrospective opened at the Städel Museum, Frankfurt, on 5 March.

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