If you only have time to visit one museum in Odesa, Western and Eastern Art Museum is the one. Paintings and sculptures by Michelangelo, Peter Paul Rubens, David Teniers, Sebastian del Piombo, Merisi da Caravaggio, Frans Hals and other masters are on display.
Does this museum sound familiar? Perhaps you heard the disturbing news. On July 30, 2008 Caravaggio’s “Taking of the Christ”, a painting valued at 100 million dollars, was lifted in one of the world’s most lucrative heists. It seems that only a miracle can bring this spectacular work back to Odesa, but miracles have been known to happen…
The tale of how these paintings found their way to Odessa is truly amazing. Catherine the Great, the world’s most distinguished art collector, purchased four of Hals’ evangelist paintings in Holland near the end of the 18th Century. The ships that were transporting these and other valuables back to St. Petersburg were hit by a brutal storm. One ship sank and the other suffered extensive damage. All four masterworks were believed lost at sea.
In 1958, the improbable happened. While perusing Odesa’s Privoz Market, an art collector was drawn to an old woman selling what appeared to be an ancient painting. Convinced that this was the work of a master, the collector invited the woman back to the museum. She wanted six roubles for the painting; the museum generously gave her nine.