D.A. Bragg Announces Return Of Two Paintings To Peru

February 16, 2024


Pictured: “Flight to Egypt”

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin L. Bragg, Jr., today announced the return of two paintings dating to the 18th Century to the people of Peru. As alleged, the paintings were stolen from a church in Peru in February 2012 and trafficked into Manhattan, where they were consigned for sale at an auction prior to the Office’s seizure this year.

“It does not matter whether an antiquity or painting was stolen ten years ago or ten thousand years ago – a stolen object is a stolen object,” said District Attorney Bragg. “This investigation makes clear that looting and trafficking is far from a thing of the past, and we will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to aggressively root out and dismantle these schemes.” 

Both paintings are characteristic of the Cuzco school, a distinctive artistic tradition that flourished from the city of Cuzco, Peru, during the Spanish colonial period. One painting, The Pilgrim Virgin, depicts the Virgin Mary enthroned and surrounded by angels. A second painting, Flight to Egypt, depicts the Child Jesus, the Virgin Mary and Saint Joseph on the flight to Egypt guided by an angel.

In February 2012, the two paintings were stolen from the Nuestra Señora de la Asunción church in Chicuito, Peru. During the 2012 theft, looters also pilfered other valuable relics from the church, including silver and bronze objects and additional colonial paintings.

Pictured: “The Pilgrim Virgin”

“The protection, recovery, and return of our cultural heritage is a permanent policy of the Republic of Peru. This means it is a policy that is maintained over time through various democratic governments and has the full support of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, through its embassies and Consulates General around the world,” said Ambassador Marita Landaveri, Consul General of Peru in New York. “We are deeply grateful for the cooperation of New York authorities in the successful recovery of two significant colonial paintings, which will soon be returned to the people of Peru. This collaboration underscores our ongoing commitment to combating the trafficking of cultural heritage, and we anticipate continued partnership in these vital efforts.”

“We are proud to begin the process of turning an atrocious act of stolen religious artwork taken from a sacred place to a parable with a peaceable ending. Whether here in New York or a continent away, HSI New York’s Cultural Property, Art, and Antiquities Group and our law enforcement partners are unendingly committed to reuniting people and nations with their stolen historical artifacts,” said HSI New York Acting Special Agent in Charge Erin Keegan. “I want to thank the District Attorney for New York County, the People of Peru, and the HSI Attaché for Lima, Peru, for your unwavering support in securing justice on behalf of these precious works.”

During District Attorney Bragg’s tenure, the ATU has recovered almost 1,200 antiquities stolen from more than 25 countries and valued at nearly $225 million. Since its creation, the ATU has recovered almost 4,900 antiquities valued at nearly $450 million and has returned more than 4,500 of them so far to more than 25 countries.

Assistant District Attorney Matthew Bogdanos, Chief of the Antiquities Trafficking Unit and Senior Trial Counsel, supervised the investigation, which was conducted by Assistant District Attorney Bradley Barbour; Supervising Investigative Analyst Apsara Iyer, Investigative Analysts Charlotte Looram and Hilary Chassé; and Special Agent Ilya Faynshteyn of Homeland Security Investigations.  The District Attorney’s Office would like to thank Doyle Auction, New York for their assistance and cooperation with our investigation.