September 21, 2019

Saturday, September 21, 2019 - ,, No comments

Suspended Maltese parish priest arrested for church-related art thefts

St Augustine Church
Image Credit: NICPMI archive
A Maltese parish priest has been suspended from his duties pending the outcome of an investigation by police into his alleged involvement in the thefts of paintings and ecclesiastical property taken from  the Baroque church of St. Augustine in Valletta where he served. 

The Provincial Parish church of the Augustinians in Malta and and its adjoining convent are listed on the National Inventory of the Cultural Property of the Maltese Islands (NICPMI), a heritage register which lists the cultural property of Malta under the responsibility of the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage (SCH) which was founded in 2002 to replace Malta's Antiquities Act.   The original church was built between 1571 and 1596 by Gerolamo Cassar, then demolished after the 1693 earthquake and rebuilt between 1765 and 1785.

Some of the stolen items, which included four oil paintings and six etchings, were taken in early February 2019 from the cloister used by the Augustinian nuns, perhaps in a period when areas of the church were undergoing repairs. The thefts were initially identified during an inventory conducted by the church's archivist, Fr Alex Cauchi, who discovered that certain hanging paintings and engravings at the property did not correspond with the inventory of the valuables located in the convent. To hide the criminal activity the thief or thieves had replaced the stolen paintings with other artworks hoping that the switch would go unnoticed, or at least delay any subsequent investigation.

Image Credit: St Augustine Priory in Valletta
In what appears to have been a separate theft, police from the cultural property section traced a thurible, a metal censer suspended from chains in which incense is burned during worship services, as well as an incense holder from the St. Augustine priory to a shop in Valletta.  Questioning the proprietor, the police were led to the parish priest when the owner of the shop reported to them that he had purchased the ecclesiastical items from Fr. Deo Debono for approximately € 2,000. 

Image credit: Deo Debomo
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During his subsequent interrogation, Fr. Debono admitted to his involvement in the theft of paintings and the ecclesiastical silver items which had been taken from the top floor of the Augustinian Convent.  According to police sources cited by the Times of Malta, following a lengthy talk with police, Debono confessed to the crime and law enforcement officers subsequently recovered seven of the church's stolen objects.  As a result, Debano is to be arraigned in court on Monday, September 23, 2019 on formal charges of theft. 

Malta's specialised cultural property police unit was set up in 2005 and has worked on many church related theft cases.  Some of the recent church related cases which they have solved include the theft of a painting by Antonio Falzon dating back to 1861 stolen from the Ta’ Ġieżu Church, Valletta in February 2012, the theft of an antique chalice stolen from the Safi parish church and the theft of an ecclesiastical vase taken from Stella Maris parish church, both in August 2014,  the theft of a silver vase stolen from St Paul’s Church in Valletta in February 2015 and another vase taken from St Publius parish church in Floriana in April 2015.

Open to the public, churches and temples often lack the funds for robust security, making them more vulnerable for heritage crimes, though it is not often that they are tied to clergy and are often crimes of opportunity.  In addition to the thefts from St. Augustine, Malta's Cultural Property Crime Unit is also investigating several other church thefts in Malta including: the theft of ecclesiastical items from the Church in Cospicua and the Zejtun Church, and the theft of two bells from the chapel in Għaxaq. 

September 18, 2019

Mexican Foreign Ministry urges French auction house Millon (in Paris) to halt an auction of pre-Columbian art

Image Credit: Millon Drouot
The Mexican government, through its Secretaría de Relaciones Exteriores (Ministry of Foreign Affairs) and its Ministry of Culture, have formally challenged the auctioning of 95 pieces of pre-Hispanic origin.  In doing so, they are calling upon French auction house Millon Drouot to halt its sale of the Manichak and Jean Aurance Collection of Pre-Columbian art which is scheduled to take place today and includes some 130 pre-Columbian art objects.  

During a press conference, the Mexican Ambassador to France, Juan Manuel Gómez-Robledo, indicated that a concern was lodged on September 12, 2019 by Mexico's National Institute of Anthropology and History, the competent authority in the matter asking that the auction be cancelled and that the objects in the collection contested restituted to the country. 

Raising their concerns about the provenance of the pieces, the Mexican authorities allege that some of the artifacts appear to have been stolen and/or illegally exported. Concerned with their status, María del Socorro Villarreal Escárrega, national coordinator of legal affairs for Mexico's National Institute of Anthropology and History stated that the INAH has filed a corresponding complaint with the Prosecutor's Office General of the Republic, collaborating with diplomatic authorities in order to seek the restitution of the objects. 


In their formal statement, Mexico’s Foreign Ministry stated that 95 of the 120 objects up for auction appear to be from early Mesoamerican complex civilizations such as the Olmec, which inhabited the Gulf Coast territory of Mexico extending inland and southwards across the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, from 1600 BCE until 350 BCE and the Maya who assimilated Olmec influences into the emerging the city-states of the Maya civilization.  

According to the Millon catalog, and the Antiques Trade Gazette collectors Manichek and Jean Aurance purchased their first pre-Columbian artwork in 1963 from the French dealer Olivier le Corneur who operated Galerie Le Corneur-Roudillon.  They continued purchasing tribal art  for their Art Deco lakeside home in Vésinet from le Corneur, Henri Kamer, Pierre Langlois, René Rasmussen and Charles Ratton.  Some of those pieces seem to have passed through Los Angeles art dealer Earl Stendahl.

Earlier last week Guatemala confirmed that following their own formal protests on August 28, 2019 Millon had suspended the sale, at least for a while, of one of the pre-Hispanic pieces up for auction.


Lot 55 -  A stone relief depicting the Spearthrower Owl, was discovered by Teobert Maler in 1899 and dates to 700 CE.  It was stolen from the powerful city-state of Piedras Negras in the remote northwest area of the Department of Petén in Guatemala's Sierra del Lacandón in the 1960s.

Drawing from CMHI
v. 9-1.
According to UT-Austin archaeologist and Mesoamerican art historian and epigrapher, Dr. David Stuart, who first reported (in English) about Guatemala's Ministerio de Cultura y Deportes' efforts  to stop the sale in late August, the disputed stolen relief is a portion of Stela 9 found by Teobert Maler at the ruins if Piedras Negras in 1899 on the large terrace to the east of Structure J-3, and originally placed between Stelae 10 and 40.

Allowing time for the seller, the State of Guatemala and Millon to discuss the contested object and the legality of the sale in France, Drouot Paris issued the following comment on Twitter, hinting that the sale was a legitimate one, despite the crime of removing it from the territory.
In cases of property dispute, French law, articles 2274 and 2262 of the Civil Code, tend to prefer the bona fide purchaser, in their purchase of a stolen or misappropriated movable object over that of the victim, which in this circumstance is Guatemala and Mexico.   French Law provides that title can be obtained by a good faith purchaser by way of prescription after 30 years.

As of the writing of this article, neither the consignor nor Millon has not announced a response to the Mexican government's request. 

By:  Lynda Albertson

September 17, 2019

Egyptian prosecutor requests that former honorary consul of Italy be placed on INTERPOL’s red notice list

Image Credit: https://www.radiolfc.net/tag/m-skakal/
Today, Egyptian Attorney General Nabil Ahmed Sadek ordered the arrest of Italy's former honorary consul in Luxor, Cav. Ladislav Otakar Skakal and requested that his name be placed on INTERPOL's Red notice in connection with his involvement in smuggling 21,855 artifacts from the port of Alexandria.  The objects were discovered inside a diplomatic shipping container, of the type used to transport household goods, sent through the port of Salerno in May 2017.  The mandate of the former honorary consul expired in 2014. Since then, Otakar has no longer had ties to the Italian embassy in Cairo. 

On May 25, 2018 Shaaban Abdel Gawad, who heads up Egypt's antiquities repatriation department within the Ministry of Antiquities, confirmed that the Egyptian authorities had deemed the artifacts to be authentic but the objects did not appear in any of the country's antiquities registries.  This meant that the ancient objects in the container, dating from the Predynastic to the Ptolemaic, as well as the Islamic era, had not been stolen from any known museum collection, but were likely the unrecorded finds of clandestine excavations of archaeological sites, possibly from the area near the Nile Rover city of Minya in Upper Egypt, 250 kilometers south of Cairo.  The objects were restituted to The Arab Republic of Egypt on  July 30, 2018.

Widely known as INTERPOL, the International Criminal Police Organization's colour-coded "Notices" are law enforcement communication tools used to enable INTERPOL's 194 member countries to share alerts and requests for information worldwide on missing persons, criminal activity and criminals who are believed to have fled to other jurisdictions to try to evade justice. Created to enhance worldwide police cooperation, a Yellow notice is an alert to help locate missing persons.  A Red notice is effectively a request by a member country to other countries asking for help in locating and making a provisional arrest pending extradition, surrender, or similar legal action on a person wanted in a criminal matter.  No country however is obliged to act on the notice and INTERPOL itself recognizes that "each member country decides for itself what legal value to give a red notice within their borders".


Raouf Boutros Ghali who holds passports from Italy and San Marino, is the brother of the former Egyptian Minister of Finance, Youssef Botros Ghaly whose served in that role under then President Hosni Mubarak from 2004 to 2011.  He is also the nephew of Boutros Boutros-Ghali, Secretary-General of the United Nations from January 1992 to December 1996 who died in 2016.  

The Egyptian Public Prosecutor also ordered the search of the Italian defendant's residence in Cairo as well as his bank's safe deposit box.  In carrying out this search warrant, other artifacts belonging to the Egyptian civilization were subsequently seized.  

September 15, 2019

Museum Theft: Literally taking the piss, a $4.9m golden lavatory has been stolen from Blenheim Palace


Pre-installation view, "America, 2016" by Maurizio Cattelan arriving at Blenheim Palace, 2019
Image Credit Blenheim Palace
Stolen during a burglary just days after it was plumbed into Blenheim Palace, the monumental country house in Woodstock, Oxfordshire where former prime minister Winston Churchill was born, artist Maurizio Cattelan's
Installation view, "America, 2016"
by Maurizio Cattelan
Image Credit: Blenheim Palace
18-karat gold, fully functional toilet has been yanked out of its posh installation setting on Saturday, September 14th.

Titled "America" the solid golden toilet some have deemed a smug symbol of excess, was created for the Guggenheim Museum in New York City where it debuted in 2016 as part of a "interactive" exhibition usable by the museum's patron's as a modest, single-occupancy museum restroom.  Similarly installed this week in Blenheim Palace's wood-panelled surroundings, the artwork is part of Cattelan's first significant solo exhibition in the UK in 20 years, which was set to run from 12 September - 27 October 2019.

In keeping with the interactive hilarity of Cattelan's installation, the golden throne was reservable in three minute time slots via bookings with the visitor's center in the Great Hall of the 18th Century stately home.  Collection patrons at Blenheim Palace were also encouraged to tag themselves in photos using the hashtags #AmericaBlenheimPalace or #CattelanatBlenheimPalace, though thankfully Brit's seem to have more decorum than to snap self-indulgent selfies on a golden loo. 


When a giant gold coin, weighing 100 kilos was stolen from the Münzkabinett (coin cabinet) at the Bode Museum in Berlin in the early morning hours of March 27, 2017 insider involvement was believed to play a part and subsequently thereafter an employee, who held a subcontracting job at the museum was named a suspect. 

During yesterday's remarkably straight-faced press conference, Inspector Richard Nicholls of the  Thames Valley Police addressed the media to announce details of the toilet's theft.  


Authorities believe thieves in possibly two vehicles left the palace after removing the toilet sometime around 4:50 a.m on Saturday, September 15th. A 66-year-old man has been taken into custody in possible connection with the theft but has yet to be named and until now the toilet has not been recovered. 

All puns aside, and in this case there are many floating around, gold is presently valued at around $1,500 per troy ounce. 18 karat gold is a mixture of pure gold and other metals in the ratio 3:1.  Using that ratio, the toilet would have been made up of 75% pure gold, 15% silver and 10% copper.  Weighing in at 103 kilos of gold (3311.53 troy ounces), once melted down, the smelted gold would be worth $4,967,295 USD.

Person's with any information regarding this incident, should contact the Thames Valley Police on 101, quoting URN 273 (14/9), or report their information via their law enforcement website: https://www.thamesvalley.police.uk

September 8, 2019

Restitution: Painting of Ivan the Terrible by artist Mikhail Panin

"Ivan the Terrible Before the Oprichina"
by artist Mikhail N. Panin
Image Credit: US Justice Department
An oil painting, titled Secret Departure of Ivan the Terrible Before the Oprichina by artist Mikhail N. Panin, painted in 1911 will finally be going home almost 80 years after it went missing. The artwork had been stolen from the Ekaterinoslav City Art Museum during World War II and was only identified when it was consigned for sale in Alexandria, Virginia.

The artwork depicts the 16th-century Grand Prince of Moscow, Ivan IV Vasilyevich, the first Russian monarch to adopt the term "Tsar of All Russia" as his title.  In the painting  he is seen exiting the walls of a city, looking solemn on a white horse.  Known throughout Russian history as Ivan the Terrible, Ivan IV brutishly divided Russia into two separate territories in 1565.

During this period he ruled the first landholding, known as the Oprichnina, with an iron, and oftentimes terrorizing, fist from 1565 until 1572.  The land under his jurisdiction included the wealthier regions of Muscovy, the former Novgorod Republic in the north,  Dvina, Kargopol, Velikii Ustyug, Vologda and important regions for salt extraction such as Staraya Russa and Soligalich, which in practice meant that he had a monopoly of trade in this important commodity. The second territory, the Zemshchina was ruled by the remaining boyar duma, whose seat of influence and power included the more weakened Moscow. 

The stolen painting was one of 63 artworks known to have disappeared in or around 1941 from the Dnipropetrovsk State Art Museum in the Ukrainian city of Dnipropetrovsk now known as Dnipro, taken ostensibly by Nazi German troops.  The artwork eventually made its way overseas to a house in far away Ridgefield, Connecticut where the home and the massive artwork were both purchased by David Tracy and his wife Gabby, a Holocaust survivor in 1987. The Tracy's purchased the home themselves from a previous couple who likewise purchased the home along with the painting in 1962, this time from a former Swiss soldier who emigrated to the United States in 1946 but whom had died in 1986.  The artwork had remained in the Ridgefield residence all that time, until the Tracy family, downsizing their home for a smaller condominium, and assuming the canvas was of modest value, consigned the painting to Potomack Company Auctions & Appraisals in Alexandria.

Painting as it appeared in Dnepropetrovsk State Art Museum, circa 1929
Image Credit:  US Justice Department
In preparation for its eventual sale, the painting's history was then researched by Anne Norton Craner, a fine arts specialist with the Potomack Company whose provenance research led her to documentation which identified the 1911 work as being by the Ukrainian artist Mikhail Panin.  As part of her due diligence, Craner contacted the museum in Ukraine, whose curators then supplied her with photos of the painting taken in 1929 when the painting was still part of the collection.  The museum also supplied related inventory documentation which included a notation recording that the artwork was stolen from a city museum and listing it as "taken to Germany by the Hitlerites."

With this information, Elizabeth Haynie Wainstein, owner and CEO of The Potomack Company informed the consignor and contacted the FBI and the U.S. attorney’s office, who in turn worked with the State Department and Ukrainian diplomats.  Subsequently thereafter the United States Attorney for the District of Columbia issued a Complaint for Forfeiture in Rem on December 20, 2018 against the defendant property in accordance with Rule G(2) of the US Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Supplemental Rules for Admiralty or Maritime Claims and Asset Forfeiture Actions on the basis that the painting represented the proceeds of the interstate transportation of stolen property and possession of stolen goods.  Appreciating the need for returning the lost painting to its rightful home, the Tracy family agreed to waive any and all claims to the painting.  Once no other claims were filed, the US Government began making plans to return the artwork to the Embassy of Ukraine in Washington, D.C. 

When speaking about the restitution process U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia Jessie K. Liu stated “The recovery of this art, looted during World War II, reflects the commitment of this office to pursue justice for victims of crime here and abroad. The looting of cultural heritage during World War II was tragic, and we are happy to be able to assist in the efforts to return such items to their rightful owners.”

The Potomack Company, pleased with their pivotal role in the painting's restitution, will host a handover ceremony on Monday, September 9th at their gallery in Old Town Alexandria located at 1120 N. Fairfax Street.

Invitees to the event include:

Valeriy Chaly, Ambassador of Ukraine to the United States
FBI officers from the Washington Field Office who were involved in this case
Representatives from the US Department of State
Representatives from the Office of the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia
The Tracy family

By:  Lynda Albertson

September 7, 2019

The interesting fate of Joshua Reynolds' painting "A Young Girl and Her Dog", stolen in 1984.

Image Credit Left: www.thecatalogstar.com
Image Credit Right: Tokyo Fuji Art Museum (TFAM)
In 1984 a portrait of young lady Elizabeth Mathew with her dog, painted by Joshua Reynolds, was one of five artworks stolen from the mansion home, the Old Rectory of Sir Henry Price (1877–1963), and Eva ‘Eve’ Mary Dickson (1907–1994), the Lady Price, on church road in Newick, a village in the Lewes District of East Sussex, England.  The theft occurred during one of three burglaries which targeted at least twenty five artworks from Lady Price’s collection.  

Despite its (then) recent disappearance, the oil on canvas portrait, painted in or about 1780, sold a mere four years later during a London auction in July of 1988.  Leading up to the sale, the portrait garnered pride of place on the cover of Sotheby's auction catalog.   The winning bidder, an as yet unnamed member of the art trade, then sold the artwork on to the Tokyo Fuji Art Museum (TFAM) in 1990.  All this without anyone; Sotheby's, the should-have-been-well-informed savvy art market buyer, or the prestigious Japanese museum itself, appearing to have done a thorough check on the portrait's validity on the art market before or after acquiring the painting. 

The painting, listed on the museum's website as A Young Girl and Her Dog, had once been exhibited extensively.  It toured as Girl and Dog when displayed at the British Institution in 1831, later at Grafton Gallery in 1891 and again at the New Gallery from 1899 until 1900.  The oil painting was also included as part of a 1913 national loan exhibition at New Grosever Gallery and given a different title, that of Portrait of Miss Mathew, later Lady Elizabeth Mathew.  Apparently relying on these public appearances, the auction house and the subsequent buyers appeared to accept the collection history supplied at the time of the painting's sale.


Thomas Hamlet; his sale, Messrs. George Robins, August 1, 1833
Wynn Ellis; his sale, Christie’s May 6, 1876, lot 96
William Stuart Stirling-Crawford, Milton, who bequeathed it to his widow, Caroline, Duchess of Montrose; her sale, Christie’s, July 14, 1884, lot 36
Henry J. Pfungst from whom it passed to Arthur Smith
Sir Lionel Phillips, Bt., Tylney Hall, Winchfield, Hampshire; his sale, Christie’s, April 25, 1913, lot 58
Arthur Hamilton Lee, Later Viscount Lee of Fareham (1868-1947)

Yet where and when the painting was in the many years that passed after the artwork was purchased by Sir Lionel Phillips in 1913 failed to raise any eyebrows. 

Advocating for the legitimate heirs, descendants of Lady Price, who have been asking the museum for the painting back for years,  Christopher Marinello of Art Recovery International, indicated that the artwork was sold omitting the fact that Sir Henry Price purchased the portrait directly from the Viscount of Fareham in August 1942.  Representing the family in this claim, Marinello provided the museum with a copy of original correspondence for the purchase of the portrait for £6000, as well as related confirming documents and a photograph of the artwork when it was proudly displayed to the left of a fireplace in the family's home.  

"A Young Girl and Her Dog" by Joshua Reynolds
as photographed in the home of Sir Henry and Lady Price
Image Credit: Art Recovery International.
As the painting was not insured at the time of its theft, which would then transfer ownership to an insurance company upon any claims payout) and in accordance with British Common Law, which favors the dispossessed owners and by proxy the family's heirs, the artwork is still legally "owned" by the family in the UK.  British Common law stipulates that a thief cannot pass good title onward, no matter how many subsequent owners subsequently purchase an artwork in apparent good faith. 

According to a report in the Art Newspaper, a lawyer representing the Fuji Art Museum, Haruhiko Ogawa, of Kumada & Ogawa law firm, stated at some point in the process that the museum is currently contesting the Price family heir's (Radley-Smith) claim.  The lawyer indicated that the family of Lady Price and their representative had not established without a doubt that the painting the museum has in its possession is in fact the same one which was stolen in Newick, despite there being no record of another exact work of art executed by the artist Reynolds which matches the individual female and scenery details portrayed in the singular commissioned portrait.  

Artist Joshua Reynolds made his living in the portrait trade and was paid well by wealthy clients who wanted flattering portraits of themselves and or their family members. Like some prolific artists of the period, he established a workshop of drapery painters and assistants who assisted him in keeping up with the large number of commissions he undertook.  Demand for Reynolds work at one point was so high that the artist's records substantiate that the painter had as many as 150 appointments for individual sittings in a single year, sometimes scheduling as many as three sittings a day to keep up with his busy work calendar.

This portrait of A Young Girl and Her Dog, was commissioned by Irish nobleman, Francis Mathew, later the First Earl of Llandaff.  Elizabeth Matthew was his daughter.  It is thought that Reynolds painted the details of Lady Mathew and left both the dog and the painting's surrounding background elements  to others working within his workshop.  This assumption may be speculative though as the pocketbook the artist kept for the period of time when this portrait was completed has been lost over time, obscuring the exact dates for this artwork's sitting, as well as the price paid to the artist for the commission of the 77.5 x 63.5 cm portrait.

Having said that, the purchase of art work on the international market is undoubtedly a ticklish business.  Japanese civil law assumes that if the possessor has acquired a thing stolen or lost in good faith by purchase at an auction, or in a public market, or from a trader who deals in such wares, the individual or individuals wronged can reclaim the object from the possessor, only upon the condition that the wronged individual repays to the possessor the amount which the latter, in this case the Tokyo Fuji Art Museum as the bona fide purchaser, paid for the painting.   

Perhaps to put pressure upon the TFAM, by drawing attention to the case during ICOM Kyoto 2019, the biggest conference of the museum field, Marinello issued a tweet which included a photograph of an apparently overlooked news article from the Mid Sussex Times, published on May 25, 1984, which reported on the theft, clearly mentioning a masterpiece by Joshua Reynolds and which included a large photo of the stolen painting.  Marinello's tweet pushed for the museum to act in good faith by revealing who the consignor was, reminding them of their obligation as an ICOM member museum to adhere to the ICOM Code of Ethics for Museums. 

ICOM's Code of ethics addresses diverse museum-related topics such as acquisition procedures and compliance with legislation and which specifically states:

2.2 Valid Title
No object or specimen should be acquired by purchase, gift, loan, bequest, or exchange unless the acquiring museum is satisfied that a valid title is held. Evidence of lawful ownership in a country is not necessarily valid title.

2.3 Provenance and Due Diligence
Every effort must be made before acquisition to ensure that any object or specimen offered for purchase, gift, loan, bequest, or exchange has not been illegally obtained in, or exported from its country of origin or any intermediate country in which it might have been owned legally (including the museum’s own country). Due diligence in this regard should establish the full history of the item since discovery or production.

The TFAM has been the subject of acquisition controversy in the past.  In 2012, in a tussle with Italy, the museum was involved in a dispute over the return of a Leonardo da Vinci painting commissioned in the early 16th century for the "Salone dei Cinquecento" of Palazzo Vecchio in Florence after it was established that the artwork had been illegally exported during World War II. The museum also claimed in that instance to have purchased that work in good faith.

On November 26th 2012 the museum and Italy's MiBACT issued a joint statement simultaneously in Tokyo and Rome, wherein the Tokyo Fuji Art Museum and Italy's Ministry of Cultural announced the signing of a long-term loan agreement alongside the donation of Da Vinci's Fight for the Banner, a moment of the "Battle of Anghiari" by the museum.

For now the Radley-Smith heirs sit and wait while the jurisdictions in question hash out who should be favored, the victim of theft or the acquirer in good faith of this stolen work of art.  Unfortunately in this case, the heirs of the family do not have the weight of an entire country's loans to dangle as a carrot for negotiation. 

By:  Lynda Albertson

September 4, 2019

Recovered: Stolen portrait of William Chester of East Haddon recovered after almost 30 years

LAPD Detective Detective Mel Vergara with
recovered painting stolen in 1991
Sometimes art is stolen with little public fanfare with the loss to owners never making newspaper headlines in quite the same way museum thefts do. This was the case almost thirty years ago when a thief or a group of thieves broke into the home of Judy Karinen in Hollywood Hills in 1991.  During that burglary, the culprit made off with a portrait of William Chester of East Haddon, painted around 1664, which Karinen had purchased for $4,000 in 1985.  


The painting was recovered this past summer, one of 50 stolen paintings Los Angeles police identified via a lead related to an auction earlier this year.  Searching through years of old police records, this single lost portrait was eventually identified by Los Angeles Police Detective Mel Vergara, who then contacted the painting's owner who was happy to have good news from the police department.

As a reminder to all art owners, LAPD officials commented that without the owner's original photo of the portrait of William Chester of East Haddon, which had been attached to the old police report, the stolen painting might never have been identified by officers doing a thorough records search.  Photographing and documenting your collection is key for detective work, as well as for most insurance policies.  Photographic records are also mandatory for listing missing items within the FBI's National Stolen Art File (NSAF) and in some other art loss databases such as the ones managed by Art Loss Register and Artive.

For now, the LAPD's search for artwork owners continues and the squad is asking for help identifying the owners of the portrait of a woman pictured above.