A Sad Day for Danes (UPDATE)


In a puzzling theft, Denmark’s national treasure, copies of the already stolen and destroyed Golden horns of Gallehus were stolen early Monday morning. From AFP:

COPENHAGEN (AFP) — One of Denmark’s national treasures, a set of two horns made in the 1800s, was stolen in the early hours of Monday, Danish police said. Called “Guldhornene” in Danish, or the Golden Horns, the pieces are silver replicas of two original gold horns made in 400 A.D. which were stolen in 1802 and destroyed. The replicas, with a thin gold coating, were on loan from the National Museum of Denmark for an exhibit in Jelling, near the central Danish town of Vejle, when they were stolen by thieves who smashed a display case.

Even though the works are replicas they are part of the country’s cultural heritage, National Museum curator Carsten Larsen said.

The originals were discovered in the town of Gallehus in southern Denmark in 1639 before they went missing and were found again in 1734.

They were stolen in 1802 from the Royal Chamber of Art by an indebted jeweller, Niels Heidenreich, who melted the gold to make jewellery and counterfeit coins.

The horns are a national symbol known to all and have even inspired a famous poem penned by Danish writer Adam Oehenschlaeger. Experts said the thieves would not be able to sell the treasures. “The thieves cannot put them to any use whatsoever,” said Michael Fornitz from Copenhagen’s Bruun Rasmussen auction house. “Maybe they thought the horns were made of solid gold and thought they would melt them down. But they are gilded and do not have any intrinsic worth.” He also shot down the idea that a collector could have ordered the theft. “Our experience shows that this hypothesis only exists in detective novels,” he said. “Collectors are proud of showing off their acquisitions, not hiding them.”

Danish police have meanwhile stepped up a search for the thieves who fled from the precincts in a Volvo V40, according to witnesses.

The thieves appear to have been ignorant of the true nature of the horns, or they were trying to make a political statement. The horns probably looked more valuable than they really are; or perhaps that’s what the police are saying to try and convince the thieves to make a quick return. Wikipedia indicates the copies were made some time in the 1980’s. It seems difficult to guess what the motive for the theft might have been.

UPDATE:

The horns have been recovered, and a press conference has been scheduled for this morning to give more details. From AFP:

COPENHAGEN (AFP) — One of Denmark’s national treasures, a set of two horns made in the 1800s, was recovered by police Tuesday after being stolen in the early hours of Monday, local television station TV2Syd reported.

Police inspector Steen Edeling told the station in the central town of Vejle that the horns had been found. He did not give any details, but a press conference was to be held in Vejle at 0800 GMT Wednesday.

Questions or Comments? Email me at derek.fincham@gmail.com

4 thoughts on “A Sad Day for Danes (UPDATE)”

  1. Derek, it does appear that the thieves were ignorant of their loot or, perhaps more likely, overestimated their chances of selling it. Today’s Berlingske, a Danish daily broadsheet, optimistically reports that the police have a number of leads to pursue, including technical and biological evidence from the museum. The same newspaper reports that a Danish amateur diver is planning to dive for the “original copies” of the horns, made before these were stolen in 1802. The copies are thought to have disappeared while being shipped to cardinal Stefano Borgia in Rome sometime in the late 1700s to early 1800s and thought to rest somewhere on the bottom of the Strait of Bonifacio between Corsica and Sardinia. It looks like we are gonna need a bit good fortune here; for the police and the divers in each their ventures.

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