The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

Italian police: Autoworker had stolen Gauguin painting hanging in kitchen, didn't know worth

  • Print
A carabiniere (Italian paramilitary police) officer stands by a Paul Gauguin still life recovered by authorities, during a press conference in Rome, Wednesday, April 2, 2014.

Enlarge Image

A carabiniere (Italian paramilitary police) officer stands by a Paul Gauguin still life recovered by authorities, during a press conference in Rome, Wednesday, April 2, 2014.

ROME - A Paul Gauguin still life stolen from a wealthy collector's home in Britain decades ago has been recovered after hanging for 40 years in a Sicilian autoworker's kitchen.

The worker bought the painting along with one of lesser value by another French artist, Pierre Bonnard, for about $100 at a 1975 Italian state railway auction of unclaimed lost items, said Maj. Massimiliano Quagliarella of the paramilitary Carabinieri art theft squad.

Italian authorities on Wednesday estimated the still life's worth in a range from 10 million euros to 30 million euros ($14 million to $40 million).

"The painting, showing fruit, seemed to fit in with dining room decor," Quagliarella told The Associated Press about the now-retired autoworker's choice of placement in his kitchen, first in Turin, then in Sicily.

The painting is believed to have "travelled" on a Paris-to-Turin train before it was found by railway personnel who put it in the lost-and-found depot, said Gen. Mariano Mossa. After the autoworker retired to Sicily, the man's son, who studied architecture at university, noticed a telling detail: a dog curled up in the corner.

Dogs were sometimes a signature motif for Gauguin's work.

The man's son contacted an art expert to get an evaluation. The expert concluded the work was likely a Gauguin painting, and contacted the Carabinieri's division dedicated to recovering stolen and trafficked art and ancient artifacts.

The painting — named "Fruit on a Table with a Small Dog" — depicts two bowls brimming with brightly colored grapes, apples and other pieces of fruit. On the front is a painted "89" — an indication it was created in 1889. It now measures 46.5 by 53 centimetres (about 18 by 20 inches) — slightly smaller than when Gauguin created it because the thieves cut the painting out of its frame, police said.

The painting will remain in the custody of the art squad because the police have yet to receive an official notice that it is stolen, Quagliarella said. The art squad traced it using newspaper articles in 1970 reporting the theft of a wealthy London family's art collection.

Italy's culture minister, Dario Franceschini, called the painting's recovery an "extraordinary" find.

London's Scotland Yard has been in contact with the Italian police but said in a statement Wednesday it had not been possible to trace the records of the theft. Italian police found a photo of the painting in a June 28, 1961, auction in London.

Chris Marinello of Art Recovery International, which helps track down stolen artworks, said the story of treasures ending up in lost-and-found departments was not unprecedented.

In 2006, the Duchess of Argyll lost a tiara, a diamond Cartier brooch and other jewels at Glasgow Airport. Six years later they were put up for auction — it turned out they had been sold by the airport as unclaimed property. After negotiations, they were returned to the duchess.

Marinello said there could be a battle for ownership of the recovered paintings in Italy. Under Italian law, the autoworker could have a right to them if he could prove he bought them in good faith, he said.

"I'm sure this is not the last we will hear of this," Marinello said.

__

AP reporters Jill Lawless and Danica Kirka contributed to this story

__

Follow Frances D'Emilio on Twitter at www.twitter.com/fdemilio

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Huge vigil held in support of Tina Fontaine, Faron Hall

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • A one day old piglet glances up from his morning feeding at Cedar Lane Farm near Altona.    Standup photo Ruth Bonneville Winnipeg Free Press
  • A young gosling prepares to eat dandelions on King Edward St Thursday morning-See Bryksa 30 Day goose challenge- Day 17- bonus - May 24, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

Do you agree with the mandatory helmet law for cyclists under 18?

View Results

Ads by Google