Years before the horror movie “Scream” was released, featuring a Halloween costume that bore a resemblance to Edvard Munch’s masterpiece, “The Scream,” I was mesmerized by the painting. A ghostly looking figure appearing to be in some state of anguish or horror with hands pressed against the face. I often viewed the painting in art books, and wondered what Edvard Munch was thinking when he painted the classic figure.
A lot of people are unaware that there are two, yes two, versions of The Scream. Both paintings date to the year 1893, yet are very different when viewed together. One shows very little detail, making the horrified figure appear ghostly and not of this world. The other, having more detail, makes the figure more human.
The first of the two The Scream paintings was stolen in 1994 by burglars that broke a window at Oslo’s National Museum, and climbed in with a ladder. The painting was recovered within a few months when police posed as buyers in the art theft sting. The second theft was a bold approach, masked and armed gunmen walked into the Munch Museum in broad daylight and yanked both “The Scream”, and “Madonna” off the wall in front of tourists.
Unlike the first theft of The Scream, police are tight-lipped about the tactics they used to recover The Scream and Madonna. “Out of consideration of police working methods, it will be hard to give details about how the operation was carried out,” the police said in a statement. And that’s all they are saying.
No verification into the story of a jailed burglar named David Toska offering up information to police in the recovery of the two paintings in exchange for reduced sentencing has been confirmed. Toska, who is in jail serving a 19 year sentence for a botched 2004 bank robbery that left a police officer dead, is speculated to have contributed information to the police in exchange for a plea bargain. Police are not commenting to the Norwegian media whether there is any truth to this claim.
Experts at the Munch Museum were called in to examine The Scream and Madonna, and the verdict was returned that they are indeed the stolen works of Edvard Munch. Since the August 2004 heist, the Munch Museum has overhauled its security system to the tune of a cool $6.4 million.
The Munch Museum hopes to have The Scream and Madonna back on the gallery walls soon. The famous paintings are still in custody of the Norwegian police. There has been no timeline set on how long it will be before the paintings are returned to the museum.
Edvard Munch, the father of modern expressionism, also painted such works as Ashes and Evening on Karl Johan. He was born in 1863, and died in 1944 at the age of 80.