The Louvre in Paris has been reunited with two long-lost pieces of Italian Renaissance armour, nearly 40 years after they were stolen.
The ornate helmet and breastplate had been recognised by a military expert in Bordeaux, who was asked to appraise a local family’s collection.
Police are investigating how the family came to inherit the items.
Made between 1560 and 1580 in Milan, the armour had been donated in 1922 to the museum by the Rothschild family.
Mystery still surrounds the theft on 31 May, 1983.
“I was certain we would see them reappear one day… But I could never have imagined that it would work out so well – that they would be in France and still together,” said Philippe Malgouyres, the Louvre’s chief curator of heritage artworks.
The museum’s director, Jean-Luc Martinez, said they were “objects of pomp and circumstance”.
“These are quite exceptional pieces that belonged to the collection of the Baroness de Rothschild and were donated to the Louvre Museum in 1922,” he said.
Suspicion over the items’ importance was raised in January, after an auctioneer hired a French military antiquities expert to appraise items a Bordeaux family had inherited.
He alerted the police, who found the objects on France’s missing artefacts database, which has more than 100,000 objects listed. Last year alone, 900 were added.
The Louvre and its stolen artworks
The world’s most visited museum is no stranger to dealing with stolen objects.
The theft of its most famous resident, the Mona Lisa, caused an international sensation when the painting was stolen in 1911. Vincenzo Peruggia, a Louvre employee, hid in a cupboard overnight to take Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece.
It was recovered two years later when he tried to sell it to an antiques dealer in Florence.
In 1976, three burglars climbed scaffolding on the outside of the museum, smashed a window and stole the diamond-studded sword used for the 1824 coronation of King Charles X. It is still missing.
Mr Martinez said the last theft from the Louvre was a small painting in 1998 by French artist Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot.
“We’re still looking for it,” he said.