A STOLEN piece of artwork taken from the Christ Church Gallery over four years ago has been handed into police.

The seventeenth-century painting ‘A Rocky Coast, with Soldiers Studying a Plan’ was stolen from on 14 March 2020.

It happened at about 11pm when an alleged gang used ladders stolen from the meadows to climb onto the roof of the gallery, near the College’s Canterbury Gate in Merton Street, and smashed their way in through a skylight.

READ MORE: Two men sentenced for burglaries despite fleeing country

They removed three paintings from their frames before returning the way they came.

Oxford Mail: Salvator Rosa's 'A Rocky Coast, with Soliders Studying a Plan', dated to the late 1640s Salvator Rosa's 'A Rocky Coast, with Soliders Studying a Plan', dated to the late 1640s (Image: Christ Church/TVP)

But police have revealed that the Italian Baroque landscape was handed in to authorities in Romania and recovered by officers from Thames Valley Police and Jacqueline Thalmann, curator of Christ Church Picture Gallery.

However, the force is now releasing a fresh appeal for the other two other paintings stolen in the same raid: Sir Anthony van Dyck’s ‘A Soldier on Horseback’ dating from circa 1617 and ‘A Boy Drinking’ by Annibale Carracci dating from around 1580, both of which have been on display since 1768 at Christ Church.

Romanian police were contacted by a man in possession of the Rosa painting, who had sold on the other two artworks, which are understood to be somewhere in Europe. He chose to return the Rosa painting to the authorities.

READ MORE: Man who allegedly set fire to own boat 'jumped into canal to flee police'

The man is being treated as a witness by Romanian authorities and has not been arrested.

Senior investigating officer Detective Chief Inspector James Mather said: “We’re pleased to be able to announce this breakthrough and recover this painting by Salvator Rosa, thanks to the Romanian authorities and their intelligence.

“Our enquiries are ongoing and we are working with the Romanian judiciary and police, as well as Eurojust and Europol, to gather further intelligence, and it is believed that the other two paintings were sold on in Romania and could be anywhere in Europe.

“Some of the work includes detailed forensic analysis of the painting which is ongoing. While this is significant progress, two important works of art remain missing.”

Ms Thalmann added: “We’re grateful to the Romanian authorities and Thames Valley Police for their help in retrieving this priceless work and returning it to our gallery.

READ MORE: Triathlete's death ruled accidental after incident at Oxfordshire race

“The missing paintings have been on public view since 1768, so it’s vital that we recover them so they can be enjoyed and studied by all once more.

“Not only do the paintings form a significant part of our collection, but their significance to our British and European culture is inestimable.”

Anyone with information is urged to contact police quoting reference number 43200087031.