MOSCOW • A man who snatched a 19th century painting off the wall in a busy Moscow museum and calmly walked out has been arrested, the authorities said yesterday.
The suspect took a Crimean landscape work by Russian artist Arkhip Kuindzhi and carried it through a room filled with visitors on Sunday evening, footage aired on state television showed. It is the second security incident to hit the capital's Tretyakov Gallery in a year, after a visitor in May seriously damaged a painting of Ivan the Terrible.
The Russian Interior Ministry said a 31-year-old man was detained yesterday in a village outside Moscow. He admitted hiding the painting in a construction site, where it was recovered.
The painting, depicting the Ai-Petri mountain in Crimea, was completed between 1898 and 1908.
The ministry published a video of his arrest that showed armed police holding the man to the floor and recovering the painting, which appeared not to be damaged.
The authorities said the man had previously been charged with drug possession and was currently not allowed to leave Russia. Police are investigating if he had accomplices.
"At the time of the theft, the museum's security - carried out by forces of the National Guard and the museum's security service - was working normally," the gallery said. "Security measures at the Arkhip Kuindzhi exhibition and all sites of the Tretyakov Gallery have been strengthened."
The Kremlin yesterday said the gallery is "protected at a proper level", but added that "conclusions must be drawn". It also praised the law enforcement authorities for recovering the painting. "Thank God, thanks to the energetic efforts of our law enforcement officers, the painting was found quickly and efficiently," a Kremlin spokesman said.
The theft comes after a man slashed a painting by celebrated Russian artist Ilya Repin, depicting 16th-century czar Ivan the Terrible after he killed his son. Police arrested a 37-year-old who used a metal pole to break the glass covering the picture, damaging the work in three places.
The gallery is currently hosting an exhibition with more than 120 Kuindzhi paintings that will run until Feb 17. On its website, the gallery calls Kuindzhi, who died in 1910, "one of the most memorable figures in Russian painting of the second half of the 19th century".