Stolen artworks recovered after 42 years through publicly available app

The Guardia Civil has recovered two Renaissance panels stolen in 1979 from a church in Zamora, Castilla y León, using an application developed by INTERPOL.

In a statement released today, Thursday April 7, the Guardia Civil said they had recovered two Renaissance panels stolen from the main altarpiece of the Church of Santa Marina de Barcial del Barco, in Zamora, more than forty years after they disappeared.

Both panels were stolen in September 1979 and depict Saint John the Evangelist and Saint Peter on one of them, and Saint Andrew and Saint James the Greater on the other.

The panels were recovered thanks to the good faith of the current owner, who returned them when he realized that they were two stolen objects, thanks to the visual search of the mobile application ID -Art.

Using the app’s state-of-the-art image recognition software, the photograph could be matched against the database and the panels were identified as part of INTERPOL’s Stolen Works of Art database.

The app, which is free to the public and provides access to INTERPOL’s stolen works of art database via mobile phone, contains more than 52,000 works of art from 134 member countries.

ID-Art may be used by the police, customs officials, the general public, private collectors, art dealers, journalists, students or art lovers for the following purposes:

Create an inventory of private art collections.
To report the theft of an object.
Report endangered cultural sites or illicit excavations.

“This example is a good illustration of the possibilities offered by technology to locate stolen objects, making it difficult to sell cultural property and allowing its recovery despite the years that have passed,” the Guardia Civil said in a statement.


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Christopher S. Washington