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Stolen ancient armor returned to the Louvre after 40 years

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The Louvre museum in Paris has recovered two pieces of Italian Renaissance armor — a gold- and silver-encrusted helmet and breastplate — stolen nearly 40 years ago, officials said.

A military antiques expert notified police after becoming suspicious when he was called in to give advice to a family regarding an inheritance in Bordeaux in January, according to Agence France-Presse.

Investigators later identified the long-lost armor from a database of stolen artworks as having been swiped from the Louvre on May 31, 1983, in circumstances that remain a mystery.

Bordeaux prosecutors are now investigating how the items ended up in the family’s estate.

The helmet and breastplate are believed to have been made in Milan between 1560 and 1580.  

“I was certain we would see them reappear one day because they are such singular objects. But I could never have imagined that it would work out so well — that they would be in France and still together,” Philippe Malgouyres, the Louvre’s head of heritage artworks, told AFP.

One piece of the armor
The pieces of armor were stolen over 40 years ago in 1983.
AFP via Getty Images

“They are prestige weapons, made with virtuosity, sort of the equivalent of a luxury car today. In the 16th century, weapons became works of very luxurious art. Armor became an ornament that had nothing to do with its use,” he added.

Museum director Jean-Luc Martinez said the items were “objects of pomp and circumstance,” according to the BBC.

The ceremonial helmet shown during its official restitution by the French Central Directorate of the Judicial Police (DCPJ) to the Louvre Museum on March 3, 2021.
The ceremonial helmet shown during its official restitution by the French Central Directorate of the Judicial Police (DCPJ) to the Louvre Museum on March 3, 2021.
THOMAS SAMSON/AFP via Getty Images

“These are quite exceptional pieces that belonged to the collection of the Baroness de Rothschild and were donated to the Louvre Museum in 1922,” he said.

There are 100,000 objects on France’s database of global stolen artworks.

Frederic Malon (L), deputy director in charge of the fight against organised crime at the French Central Directorate of the Judicial Police (DCPJ) officialy returns an ancient breastplate to Jean-Luc Martinez (R), president of the Louvre Museum, in Paris, on March 3, 2021.
Frederic Malon (L), deputy director in charge of the fight against organised crime at the French Central Directorate of the Judicial Police (DCPJ) officialy returns an ancient breastplate to Jean-Luc Martinez (R), president of the Louvre Museum, in Paris, on March 3, 2021.
THOMAS SAMSON/AFP via Getty Images

The last theft from the world’s most-visited museum was in 1998, a portrait by 19th-century French artist Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot, Martinez said.

“We’re still looking for it,” he said.

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