Thanks to some astute detective work, a Henri Matisse oil painting has been returned to the Stockholm museum it was stolen from 25 years ago.
Few things look more stunning above an antique mahogany pedestal desk than an oil painting, although Ribble Valley art lovers would have to be content with a framed print of Le Jardin, a post-impressionist masterpiece by Henri Matisse, painted in 1920. A vibrant meadow scene set against the background of a country church, the painting is world-famous, not least because it was the subject of one of the most daring art heists the world has ever known.
The painting – worth around £620,000 – was hanging in the Museum of Modern Art in Stockholm, Sweden, until it was stolen in a brazen smash and grab raid on 11th May 1987. Realising the painting would be impossible to sell on the open market, the museum refused to cave in to demands for a ransom, and for more than 20 years its whereabouts remained a mystery. That is until an Essex art dealer took a call from an elderly Polish collector, wanting to sell a painting he had purchased in good faith in the 1990s. As a matter of routine, the dealer checked the Art Loss Register – and discovered the painting was the same one stolen in Stockholm.
The hapless customer could only stammer as the painting was withdrawn from sale for shipment back to Sweden.
Far fewer Victorian oak pedestal desks get stolen in Cumbria than works of art, but for extra security it’s best to buy from an antique dealer.
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