It feels something that might have actually happened in an Asterix comic, to be followed by a lot of dead wild boar. But it appears that Belgian police have discovered 84 stolen pieces of art by Asterix co-creator Albert Uderzo, secreted in a forest. Or, rather, the town of Forest.
Eighty-four original drawings were found during a search of the town earlier this month. The art was reported stolen last year after being discovered being sold at auction in Belgium as part of what was called ‘The Rackham Collection’. But after the auction, the art — and the sellers — disappeared.
At the time, Uderzo said the pieces were either stolen, or lent out in 2012 and not returned. The owner of the auction house, Alain Huberty, while holding an investigation to determine the origin of the art pieces, stated that he knew the seller is honest, and that any statement from Uderzo that the art disappeared in 2012 is false. And the owner reported they had owned them for 30 years, and no police complaint has been filed.
But the gendarmes were on the hunt. And it was the French police who discovered their location, and worked with Belgian authorities to organise a raid within 24 hours.
Denis Goeman, spokesman for the Brussels prosecutor’s office, put the speed down to Getafix’s magic potion.
The stolen drawings are some of Uderzo’s earliest and predate Asterix, from the ’40s to the ’60s, including childhood drawings, he worked on the Captain Marvel Jr character and also Castagnac, a forerunner of Asterix.
The countries have different laws over art ownership, as a result of the theft of Jewish property during the Second World War. In France, owners of art are obliged to disclose how they acquired them, but not in Belgium. Uderzo describes Belgium as being “a little curious country for not having similar legislation,” which would have prevented the pages being put up for sale in the first place.
Asterix pages and covers regularly sell for six or seven figures, and while these artworks are worth less, in total they would be worth many millions.
No one has yet been charged or arrested and the French investigation continues.