The Artistic-Historical Heritage Unit of the Civil Guard has located in Italy a carving of Saint Luke attributed to Gil de Siolé after it was stolen in 1979 from the church of Santa Eugenia de Astudillo in the province of Palencia by the famous thief of sacred art Erik the Belgian, as confirmed by ‘Diario Palentino’ judicial sources.
It is one of the most sought-after pieces of religious heritage in recent decades that disappeared on the night of July 17-18, 1979.. In that same robbery, the carvings of the four evangelists from the predella of the main altarpiece, from the early 16th century, as well as the apostles from the overalls and a silver censer also disappeared.
The Artistic-Historical Heritage unit of the Civil Guard located the carving when it was going to be auctioned in Italy. The Palencia Prosecutor’s Office has already begun the procedures to be able to return the sculpture to its place of origin and has requested the Investigating Court Number 2 of Palencia to issue an international investigation order for the crimes of theft and reception. The sources consulted by the aforementioned medium confirmed this Monday that said international order (Euroorder) has already been processed, so that as many police and judicial proceedings as necessary will now be launched.
Erik the Belgian, art thief
The theft has been attributed to the thief specialized in sacred works of art, René Van Den Bergue, known as Erik the Belgian. Also a painter and author of forgeries, he is credited with the theft of more than 6,000 works of sacred art to this lover of Gothic and Romanesque art whose biography featured in the book For love at art, where some of his “blows” are narrated. He donated numerous paintings made by him to Spanish churches and brotherhoods and has a museum in Cúllar (Granada) with his works that he gave them.
Throughout his life he was arrested and accused of reception, although he was never convicted; He escaped from a prison in Germany and went through the Modelo prison in Barcelona, where he spent 36 months in preventive custody and seven years on provisional release.
More pieces by Gil de Siloe
Barely two weeks ago, it was reported that the monks of the Cartuja de Miraflores had asked the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York for the return of Santiago El Mayor, a valuable alabaster sculpture carved by Gil de Siloé for the royal pantheon of Juan II and Isabel of Portugal, located in front of the altar of the church, near Burgos.
The petition, processed during 2022 through the Spanish embassy in the United States, does not involve any legal claim but is rather friendlya kind of dialogue to achieve the return of a masterpiece of Spanish Gothic sculpture (15th century), from which it came fraudulently.