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Rare Chinese vase stolen from Hainaut museum recovered by police, Belgian and French suspects arrested

Stolen Chinese Ming vase recovered by police - Royal Museum of Mariemont
23:01 29/05/2024

A precious Chinese imperial wine vase stolen in April has been recovered, the Royal Museum of Mariemont has announced.

Classified as a treasure of the Wallonia-Brussels Federation, the vase was found on 28 May, said the museum in a press statement..

The porcelain vase was taken by three individuals who broke into the museum in Morlanwelz, near La Louvière, on the night of 20 to 21 April.

A masterpiece from the Chinese imperial workshops dating from the 16th century (Ming Dynasty), it had been acquired by the musuem’s founder Raoul Warocqué in 1912. He purchased the rare object decorated with an aquatic decoration from an antique dealer in Brussels. It is considered to be a work of inestimable cultural value.

On 21 April, local forensic police attended the scene and an investigation was launched by the Federal Judicial Police of Charleroi (PJF). It targeted suspects of French origin, which required an international collaboration between Belgian-French judicial and police authorities.

Numerous means were deployed to locate the suspects and find the stolen work, said the museum. A police operation was launched on 28 May. The PJF of Charleroi, assisted by federal police special units, in close collaboration with the Judicial Police of Lille (SIPJ) and French police services, arrested two suspects on Belgian soil and two suspects on French soil.

Ensuing searches located the stolen vase. The arrested suspects will soon be heard by the Belgian investigating judge.

Director of the Domain & Royal Museum of Mariemont Richard Veymiers, said: "I would like to salute the remarkable work of the Belgian and French police teams, and to thank them warmly for their involvement. It is a huge success, a real achievement.”

He recognised the difficulty of recovering works stolen from museums, which when they succeeded, were usually after many years of investigation. “The current situation is therefore exceptional. For us, it’s a huge relief.”

The museum and park in the province of Hainaut was bequeathed to the state by Raoul Warocqué on his death in 1917. His family, local wealthy industrialists, acquired the estate in the early 19th century. A former royal palace dating from the 16th century, the English landscaped grounds and museum – housing collections of outstanding objects from classical antiquity – are open to the public.

Photo: ©Royal Museum of Mariemont

Written by Sarah Crew