Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Who says you can't have it all. What is this, the frigging Thomas Crown Affair?

OSLO, Norway (CNN, Aug. 23) -- Armed robbers have stolen two classic paintings by Edvard Munch, including "The Scream," in a brazen daytime heist in Oslo.

The picture frames were later found in another part of the city with the pictures cut out. Authorities have found the getaway car and are using video footage of Sunday's robbery in an effort to track down the thieves, police said.

"They knew exactly where the paintings were and took them down from the wall," said Jorunn Christophersen, head of information for the Munch Museum.

The masked thieves also stole Munch's "Madonna," which shows a mysterious bare-breasted woman with flowing black hair.

The paintings -- which Munch painted as part of a series about love, fear and death -- are said to be worth millions of dollars.

"They are our most valuable paintings," Christophersen said.

"The Scream" is one of the most famous paintings in the world. Munch painted four versions, the first in 1893.

The best-known version was stolen from Oslo's National Art Museum 10 years ago. It was recovered three months later after thieves failed to extract a ransom for its return. [Gee, maybe they should have learned from that mistake, hmmm?]

Sunday's theft from took guards and patrons by surprise.

An eyewitness said one man dressed in black rushed towards the "Madonna" painting, "grabbed that off the wall and then started banging it against the wall and against the ground because the gray strings weren't breaking off for him."

"He then saw 'The Scream', ran towards that and grabbed that off the wall and then he started rushing out the front and we started rushing out the back."

"The Scream" was attached to the wall by wires, witnesses said, noting that no alarm bell could be heard when the painting was taken. They also said guards did not prevent the robbers from fleeing with the paintings.

At a news conference, government officials expressed outrage that the paintings were not more carefully protected.

But Christophersen said an alarm did go off after the paintings were pulled off the wall. She also said the paintings were "stuck to the wall with solid screws." The robbers "used force in taking the Munch (paintings) away," she said.

Christophersen also said the robbers threatened the guards with guns as they headed to their getaway car.

Munch lived from 1863 to 1944 and was a pioneer of modern expressionism.

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