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Munch portrait seized in drug smuggler’s flat

Police seized a self-portrait by the Scream artist Edvard Munch when they raided the flat of alleged drugs kingpin Gjermund Cappelen in December, Norway's VG newspaper has reported.

Munch portrait seized in drug smuggler's flat
The Munch lithograph Self-portrait with skeleton arm, next to The Scream. Photo: British Museum
Cappelen bought the work, a lithograph titled "Self Portrait with bone", in the three months leading up to his arrest, paying the art dealer in a series  of instalments. 
 
"I should never have sold the picture to him. I thought he was involved in car sales, and not drugs," the art collector told VG. 
 
The work, which is worth as much as one million kroner ($166,000), is one of the Norwegian painter's most famous self-portraits, VG's art review Lars Elton said. 
 
Cappelen has admitted to being behind the 115kg of cannabis found when he was seized in Decembber, and is thought to have distributed some 20 tonnes of cannabis around Norway in recent years, according to the online news site NA24. 
 

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OSLO

Munch wrote ‘madman’ tag on ‘Scream’ painting, museum rules

A mysterious inscription on Edvard Munch's famed painting "The Scream" has baffled the art world for years, but Norwegian experts have now concluded it was written by none other than the artist himself.

Munch wrote 'madman' tag on 'Scream' painting, museum rules
File photo: AFP

Barely visible to the naked eye, the phrase “Can only have been painted by a madman” is written in pencil in Norwegian in the upper left corner of the iconic artwork.

The dark painting from 1893, now a symbol of existential angst, depicts a humanlike figure standing on a bridge, clutching its head in apparent horror against the backdrop of a swirling sky.

The author of the phrase has long been a mystery, with the main theory until now holding that it was a disgruntled viewer who penned it at the beginning of the 20th century on one of the four versions made by Munch.

But, using infrared technology to analyse the handwriting, experts at Norway’s National Museum have now concluded that it was the artist himself. 

“The writing is without a doubt Munch’s own,” museum curator Mai Britt Guleng said in a statement.

“The handwriting itself, as well as events that happened in 1895, when Munch showed the painting in Norway for the first time, all point in the same direction.”

The first showing of the work to the public in Oslo — then known as Kristiania — provoked furious criticism and raised questions about Munch’s mental state, which, according to Guleng, likely prompted Munch to write the inscription on the canvas shortly afterwards.

A pioneer of expressionism, Munch was haunted by the premature deaths of several family members, including his mother and his sister Johanne Sophie, due to illness. In 1908, he was temporarily committed to a psychiatric hospital.

This version of “The Scream” was stolen in 1994, the opening day of the Winter Olympic Games in Lillehammer. It was recovered several months later.

The masterpiece will again go on display when the National Museum reopens in a new building in 2022.

READ ALSO: ‘The Scream’: newly-released Munch originals reveal different look

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