Peru Police Arrest 77 Year Old U.S. Man With 59 Stolen Pieces of Colonial Art

LIMA -- Peruvian police on Thursday recovered 59 stolen pieces of colonial-era art in the central province of Lima, among them canvases from the Cuzqueña School, and arrested a U.S. man implicated in the trafficking of such items.

National Police Col. Cesar Cortijo told Efe that he directed the operation and that the works were of "incalculable value" but were recovered after an investigation lasting several months during which authorities found a warehouse in which other stolen works of art from all over the country are kept.

Cortijo said that Joseph Hilliard Holland, 77, was arrested as he was leaving the warehouse, adding that he will be charged with theft.

The colonel emphasized the importance of recovering the works of art, given that generally such stolen items disappear quickly into the hands of international collectors.

Among the items recovered are several religious figures, oil paintings and garments, as well as large paintings of the Cuzqueña School, one of the main painting movements during the colonial period the works of which are characterized by their religious content.

"Right now, we're in contact with the National Institute of Culture to identify the owners of the pieces, to whom they will be returned," the officer said.

Although pieces coming from the pre-Inca cultures are those most-preferred by thieves, pieces from Peru's extensive colonial cultural patrimony housed in churches and convents all over the country have also been looted by art traffickers.