Five paintings by Francis Bacon that were stolen from a house in Madrid last July (though Spanish police only revealed the theft in March) have been recovered.

Seven men have been arrested in connection with incident in which the five  paintings and other valuables were stolen from the owner, who was reportedly a friend of the artist. The paintings, which comprise portraits and landscapes, are worth a total of £19 million and are yet to be recovered.

In February, British private investigators had been contacted regarding the incident, and sent photographs of the artworks, who in turn, contacted Spanish police asking whether or not they were indeed the works listed as stolen. From here, the police were able to examine the photos metadata to the level at which they determined the camera used to take the photos had been hired by a photographic rental company – the customer who hired the camera has been arrested, as has an art dealer and his son.

The cat burgling operation was highly sophisticated, taking place while the owner was away in London, they managed to disable the complex alarm system and had tracked the owners movements to ensure he was not likely to return.

It is still unknown exactly which paintings were stolen, but a contemporary art specialist told the Spanish newspaper, El Pais, they would be extremely difficult to sell. “It is not at all easy to sell a Francis Bacon, large or small, without that getting to the ears of those who pore over such a rarified sector,” said the expert, speaking on condition of anonymity.

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