Rejuvenated Scream Returns to Oslo Munch Museum after Heist

Rejuvenated ScreamOSLO, Norway ~ Edvard Munch’s Expressionist masterpiece The Scream went back on display at an Oslo museum this week, still showing signs of damage sustained in a daring 2004 heist but officially rejuvenated by nearly 20 years.

The Scream, perhaps the most famous expression of existential angst, had until now been thought to have been painted in 1893, but the Munch Museum told a press conference on Wednesday that it probably dates from 1910, although some doubts remained.

“Written sources, combined with style studies and, to a certain extent, technical observations made during the restoration of the painting, point to a more recent dating,” museum chief Ingebjoerg Ydstie said.

“Experts have been squabbling since the early 1970s over the date of 1893. Today, the museum is complying with the opinion of the majority,” she said.

“But we’re not putting an end to the debate. New technical studies will maybe give us a better answer one day,” she added.

The Scream, which depicts an individual on a bridge, hands clasped around the head and mouth wide open in an apparent yell of despair, was along with another Munch masterpiece, Madonna, damaged in the 2004 heist at the museum.

Police recovered the works in August 2006 under mysterious circumstances. They were scratched and torn and showed signs of humidity damage.

Most visible is a large damp spot in the lower left corner of The Scream that conservationists decided not to repair for fear of damaging the painting further.

“The stain will remain because we decided that with the current techniques available, it would be stupid to do something that would worsen the damage,” Mette Havrevold, the head of Oslo city’s art conservation department, said.

“Maybe more reliable technology will enable us to erase it in the future,” she said.

The Scream and Madonna were presented to the media on Wednesday for the first time since the painstaking restoration process, and will go on public display at the museum from Friday under the heading: Scream and Madonna – Revisited.

The Scream is hung above a small plaque where the year 1910 is engraved with a question mark.

Munch made several versions of The Scream. The only other version in oils, on show at Norway’s National Gallery in Oslo, remains dated from 1893, museum officials said.

Ydstie said the damage to the one hanging in the Munch Museum does not weaken “the enormous expressive power” of the painting, which the artist himself mishandled.

“When he wanted to hang it up in his home, since the painting wasn’t framed he just struck a nail through the canvas,” she said.

“As spectacular as it was, this episode of the heist and the damage that ensued will fade over time and will, I hope, one day be just one of many incidents in the history of this painting,” she said.

The restoration of the works was a meticulous process. Each torn fiber was glued back individually with precision devices.

“It was a challenge because we didn’t know anything about what these two paintings had been through. There were a lot of unknowns, in particular about where the humidity stain came from,” Havrevold said.

Madonna, depicted as a woman with long dark hair and a nude torso, will undergo further restoration once the exhibit concludes on September 26.

Three men were found guilty of the heist at the Munch Museum, but one of them is to have a new trial.

The museum’s security has been beefed up considerably since the theft.

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