Sunday, August 22, 2004

Aiiiieeeee! Thieves stole the "Scream!"

(AP Photo) Munch's Iconic 'Scream' Stolen in Norway
The Associated Press

OSLO, Norway Aug. 22, 2004 — Armed, masked thieves burst into a lightly guarded Oslo museum Sunday and snatched the Edvard Munch masterpiece "The Scream" and a second Munch painting from the walls as stunned visitors watched in shock.

It was the second time in a decade that a version of the iconic "Scream," which depicts an anguished, opened-mouthed figure grabbing the sides of its head, had been stolen from a museum. 

The thieves, who fled by car, also grabbed "Madonna," another priceless painting that along with "Scream" is part of Munch's "Frieze of Life" series painted in 1893-94, depicting themes of sickness, death, anxiety and love.

The two or three thieves, wearing black masks, threatened an employee of the Munch Museum with a handgun before grabbing the paintings, easily snapping the wires that attached them to the wall, witnesses and the police told The Associated Press and local media.

Many museum visitors panicked and thought they were being attacked by terrorists.

"He was wearing a black face mask and something that looked like a gun to force a female security guard down on the floor," one witness, Marketa Cajova, told the NTB news agency.

"What's strange is that in this museum, there weren't any means of protection for the paintings, no alarm bell," a French radio producer, Francois Castang, who saw the theft told France Inter radio.

"The paintings were simply attached by wire to the walls," he said. "All you had to do is pull on the painting hard for the cord to break loose which is what I saw one of the thieves doing."

Police spokeswoman Hilde Walsoe told AP that no one was injured during the robbery and that police had found the escape car an Audi A6 and fragments of the paintings' frames.

Munch, (pronounced "moongk") a Norwegian painter and graphic artist who worked in Germany as well as his home country, developed an emotionally charged style of great significance in the birth of the 20th century Expressionist movement. He died in 1944 at the age of 81.

The stolen "Madonna" depicts an eroticized virgin with a blood-red halo in a dark, swirling aura. Munch later produced woodcut lithographs of a similar subject.

Munch made four versions of "The Scream," an image that has fascinated experts and the general public for decades. Art historians and amateurs alike have pondered the meaning of the enigmatic, seemingly bleak image, which over the years has found fame in the popular culture in serious reproductions but also cartoons and novelty items.

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