‘Indiana Jones of the Art World’ Returns Stolen Statue to Museum Nearly 50 Years After Heist

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The Dutch art detective known as the “Indiana Jones of the Art World” has returned a Roman statue stolen from a French museum during a heist 49 years ago, CBS News reported.

Arthur Brand has returned the 1st century bronze sculpture statue of the god Bacchus, also known as “the God of Wine,” to the director of the Musee du Pays Chatillonnais in eastern France, CBS News reported.

The sculpture was stolen from the museum in a brazen heist in December 1973, when thieves broke in by smashing a window to the museum and grabbed the 15.7-inch statue, CBS News said.

“Fifty years after a theft it’s unheard of that something comes back – normally it’s been destroyed,” Brand told BBC.

Brand tweeted the news Wednesday after he returned the statue, saying, “The precious Roman Bacchus of Vertillum (1st century BC), stolen 50 years ago in France, was handed over by me to Catherine Monnet, the museums director. One of the most beautiful Roman antiquities ever found in France (excavated in 1894) is back where it belongs.”

Brand told BBC that he had been contacted by a client who wanted to know more about the statue after he was offered it by an another collector in Austria, who had bought it legally and in good faith.

Brand looked into the specific statute of Bacchus and found a police report that it was stolen in 1973, BBC reported.

“I contacted the collector,” he told BBC. “He didn’t want to have a stolen piece in his collection so he wanted to give it back, but French law dictates that a small amount has to be paid for safekeeping.”

Brand then contacted the museum, which was reportedly shocked to hear the news, BBC said.

“The loss to the museum and the community was enormous. One of their most precious antiquities has been stolen,” Brand told AFP. “Because back then there was no proper catalogue for stolen art, the statue disappeared into the underworld and was thought to have been lost forever.”

The statue was returned to the museum’s director at an Amsterdam hotel.

The museum director says that Brand has free admission for life for finding and returning the statue.

As Harrison Ford’s Indiana Jones would say, “this belongs in a museum!”