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An El Greco painting, one of several dozen from a collection of Old Masters previously belonging to a Viennese industrialist and seized by the Gestapo in Vienna in 1938, has been returned to the family of its former owner after a swift process of recovery, thanks to a cooperative dealer.

The painting, “Portrait of a Gentleman,” was known to have been sold to a dealer in New York in the 1950s, but attempts to reach him proved unsuccessful and the work was able to change hands several times over the next 60 years, before resurfacing again for sale in New York, the institutions that helped facilitate the recovery said.

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The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston is currently presenting a single-work exhibition devoted to the rare Renaissance painting Senigallia Madonna by Piero della Francesca. The show, titled An Italian Treasure, Stolen and Recovered, recounts the fascinating story of the work’s theft and recovery in the 1970s. On loan from Italy’s Galleria Nazionale delle Marche, this is the first time that Senigallia Madonna has been on view in the United States.

The exceptional tempera and oil on panel painting was one of three paintings stolen in 1975 and recovered the following year by Italy’s famed Carabinieri Cultural Heritage Protection Command, which specializes in the protection of the country’s cultural heritage on national and international levels. The loan is part of the Museum of Fine Arts’ Visiting Masterpieces series as well as Italy’s initiative, 2013–Year of Italian Culture in the United States, which was organized to nurture the close bonds between Italy and the U.S.

Senigallia Madonna will be on view at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston through January 6, 2014. A video chronicling the efforts of the Carabinieri will complement the work.

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Monday, 07 January 2013 12:22

Stolen Matisse Painting Recovered in England

A painting worth $1 million by the French artist Henri Matisse (1869-1954) was recovered in Essex, England. Stolen from the Museum of Modern Art in Stockholm in 1987, the location of Le Jardin (1920) has remained a mystery for more than twenty years.

The discovery occurred when British art dealer Charles Roberts of Charles Fine Art was offered the Matisse painting by a Polish collector. Roberts ran a search on the Art Loss Register (ALR) database, a hub for information regarding stolen artworks, and found Le Jardin listed. Christopher A. Marinello, executive director and general counsel of the ALR, facilitated the painting’s recovery and it is currently being held in the organization’s office before being returned to Sweden in the coming weeks.

Le Jardin was the only artwork stolen during the 1987 burglary when thieves broke through the museum’s front entrance with a sledgehammer and unscrewed it from the wall. The burglars escaped just minutes before private guards arrived to investigate the scene. Following the robbery, the thieves made several attempts to sell the painting back to the museum for an exorbitant sum. Museum officials resisted, knowing that the Matisse painting was too well known to sell on the open market and that it would resurface eventually.

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Wednesday, 19 September 2012 17:53

Stolen Renoir Joins FBI’s Top Ten Unsolved Art Crimes

As of yesterday, a Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841–1919) painting that was stolen during an armed robbery at a Houston home last September has been named one of the FBI’s top ten unsolved art crimes. A private insurance company has offered a $50,000 reward for any helpful information leading to the work’s recovery.

The painting, Madeleine Leaning on Her Hair, was completed by the pioneering Impressionist in 1918 and has an estimated value of $1 million. The painting has also been added to the Art Loss Registry, the National Stolen Art File, and Interpol’s Works of Art System. Interpol, an international police organization, encourages cooperation between law enforcement agencies in different countries. By taking these measures, the thief will most likely be unsuccessful if he/she attempts to take the painting to a knowledgeable dealer or gallery or tries to sell it at auction as most members of the art world regularly check these databases.

The other top unsolved art crimes on the FBI’s list include the notorious Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum heist in which four Rembrandts, five Degas drawings, and one Vermeer (among other works) were stolen. Also on the list is the theft of two Gloria Vanderbilt Whitney commissioned Maxfield Parrish paintings from a Hollywood gallery, the 2002 van Gogh Museum robbery in which two paintings valued at $3 million, and the 1969 theft of a $20 million Caravaggio from Italy’s Oratory of San Lorenzo.

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