Russia and Finland agree on recovery of Vrouw Maria

On October 9, 1771, a Dutch ship Vrouw Maria sank in the Baltic Sea, near the banks of south-western Finland. The ship's cargo included, among other things, works of art bought by the empress Catherine the Great in Amsterdam: silverware, etchings, paintings, including some works by Rembrandt. The paintings were packed into soldered waterproof lead containers and they may still be intact. In 1771, Finland was a part of Sweden, and Russia attempted to reach an agreement with the Swedish authorities and to recover the lost treasures, but the talks failed.

In 1999, the ship was found by Finnish explorers. For some time the discoverers attempted to get the permission from the government of Finland to recover at least something, but the permission was not granted and the cargo was proclaimed the property of Finland.

However, due to the insufficient financing, the Finnish government did not start the salvage works at the site of the wreck. Recently, Russian Ministry of Culture together with Swedish partners offered to launch the joint operation to rescue the ship's cargo, since the hull, still almost intact by now, is slowly falling apart and the treasures may be lost.

Today, the Finnish News Agency STT has reported that "Finland and Russia have reached an agreement on the lifting and restoration of the Vrouw Maria" and adds that the proposal includes a plan to turn the ship into a floating museum, which will sail between the ports of the Baltic sea.

Russian newspaper Noviye Izvestiya has a somewhat longer story, but it's in Russian.

Read more on Vrouw Maria:

The Vrouw Maria of 1771 – An example of documentary research

Wreck of the Vrouw Maria

Wikipedia: Vrouw Maria

Video made by the divers who found Vrouw Maria

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