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Last Updated: Thursday, 24 August 2006, 14:10 GMT 15:10 UK
Religious art returned to Mexico
Adam and Eve Cast Out of Paradise
The painting depicts five vignettes from the Book of Genesis
A stolen 18th Century painting that was sold on to a US gallery has been handed over to the Mexican government.

The religious painting, depicting Adam and Eve's expulsion from the Garden of Eden, was removed from a church in San Juan Tepemazalco in July 2000.

The artwork was subsequently bought by the San Diego Museum of Art for $45,000 (23,761) from a private collector.

The museum said it followed "existing professional guidelines" when buying the work.

The theft came to light in 2004, at which time the museum pledged to restore the work and return it to its original location.

This, however, did not satisfy some critics, with the San Diego Union-Tribune demanding the institution "be much more scrupulous and rigorous in investigating potential acquisitions to ensure that stolen objects never again grace its walls".

Missionaries

Completed in 1728 by an unknown artist, the 71in (180cm) by 47in (119cm) painting is believed to have been used by missionaries to convert indigenous Indians to Christianity.

It was officially handed over to Luis Cabreara, Consul General of Mexico, at the Mexican Consulate in San Diego on Wednesday.

In a statement Tony Garza, the US ambassador to Mexico, said he looked forward to viewing the work "in its appropriate setting in Mexico".

The painting is expected to be returned to its home in a church in Hidalgo state.


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