June 1, 2013

Alberge for The Observer on "Art Detective warns of missing checks that let stolen works go undiscovered"

Dayla Alberge wrote for The Observer on June 1, 2013 in "Art Detective warns of missing checks that let stolen works go undiscovered: Case of 17th-century landscape highlights failure of European auction houses, dealers and collectors to carry out searches" Christopher A. Marinello of the Art Loss Register found a landscape (beach) painting at an Italian auction house.

"We do find a lot of stolen and looted artwork in civil law countries such as Italy, France and Germany. Consigners of tainted works of art often try to hide behind the good-faith purchase laws of these countries while performing little or no due diligence," Marinello told Alberge.

The 1643 work, by 17th century Dutch artist Jan van Goyen, a 'pioneer of naturalistic landscape painting' was, according to the article, stolen from: the home of Paul Mitchell, an antique picture frame specialist in London in 1979:
'The thieves forced open a window to enter his house. Mitchell assumed that the slight noise that he heard from downstairs was the family cat. "Police call these people 'creepers', night-time burglars who specialise in burgling people when they are in their house," Mitchell said. Describing waking to discover the theft, he added: "The anguish is a very long, deep-seated thing which never really goes away. Hardly a day goes by when I haven't thought about it.
'The loss of the pictures was also painful because of their sentimental value [Marinello]. They belonged to his father, but had become so valuable that Mitchell could not afford to insure them for their full worth. Back in 1979, the paintings were valued £5,000 reward for their recovery, placing advertisements in international journals and approaching a specialist art detective. But the trail went cold.
'It surfaced by chance a few weeks ago after a Dutch dealer tried to buy it in Italy. Before paying for it, he decided to check the database of the Art Loss Register (ALR), which tracks down the world's stolen art from its headquarters in London.'
'Negotiations were particularly delicate because, under Italian law, if someone buys a stolen work in good faith the buyer is sometimes entitled to keep it.'