With a Stolen Fragment Restored, This Stunning 17th-Century Tapestry Is Made Whole. Solving 40-Year Heist Mystery

After an art thief stole six Belgian tapestries from a church in Spain, it took years for them to be recovered. One of them, which came back with an infuriating new featurea two-foot by two-foot square cut away from the bottom left corner has finally been restored decades later, thanks to help from none other than the thief who brandished the scissors.

Erik the Belgian. A notorious art thief, “The Belgian” stole thousands of pieces throughout his career. Recently-deceased in his adopted country of Spain, Van der Berghe graced several newspapers with candid interviews, in which it must be said he reported several different totals for numbers of heists conducted and number of artworks lifted.

However, regarding the theft from the church in the remote town of Castrojeriz, Van der Berghe made off single-handedly with six tapestries woven in the 17th century depicting the liberal arts and the muses, the largest of which was 13 by 20 feet. Two years later, Van der Berghe turned himself in, and eventually aided in negotiating the return of thousands of the works he stole.

The missing square of the tapestry, depicting a cherub, was not returned in those years, and would remain apart for four decades until a Spanish investigator named Ángel Alcaraz took interest in the matter while working with the national police on a research report about art theft.