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April 4, 2014

Carabinieri reports recovering paintings by Gauguin and Bonnard stolen from London in 1970

Rachel Donadio, reporting from Rome for The New York Times, wrote on April 2, 2014 in "Two Stolen Paintings Are Found in Italy" that according to a phone interview with Gen. Mariano Mossa, the chief of the cultural heritage division of Italy’s paramilitary Carabinieri police (Carabinieri TPC), that the two paintings a Fiat factory worker purchased for $70 in 1975 at Turin auction turned out to be valuable works by Gauguin and Bonnard stolen in 1970 from the London residence of Mathilda Marks, 'a philanthropist and a daughter of Michael Marks, a founder of the Marks & Spencer department-store chain'.

In "Stolen Paul Gauguin Painting Recovered from House of Retired Fiat Employee," Douglas Cobb writing for Guardian/Living Voice recounts:
The Paul Gauguin painting was stolen from the family of one of the co-founders of Marks & Spencer, a department store chain. In 1970, in the vicinity of Regents Park, three men pretending to be burglar alarm company employees stole the painting and one by 19th century painter Pierre Bonnard worth an estimated $690,000. The Bonnard painting, “Woman with Two Chairs,” depicts a woman dressed in white who is seated in a chair in a luxurious green garden. [...] According to the police, it’s likely that the thieves abandoned the paintings on a train because they were worried that they would get caught trying to sneak the canvases across the border. In 1975, the railway company sold the paintings at an auction, without realizing their value.
 Michael Day, writing for The Independent in "Stolen Gauguin and Bonnard paintings worth over £30 m recovered after hanging in a factory worker's kitchen for 40 years", reports:
The Italian authorities first took notice of the paintings last summer when members of the Carabinieri TPC, a cultural heritage protection police force, saw photos of the works. “From the preliminary information, it appeared that the works shown were purchased in 1975 for the modest sum of 45,000 lire (€25),” said Brigadier General Mariano Mossa, commander of the Carabinieri TPC. “It's an incredible story, an amazing recovery. A symbol of all the work which Italian art police have put in over the years behind the scenes,” Italy's Culture Minister Dario Franceschini told journalists. Brigadier General Mossa said the investigation into how the paintings ended up in the kitchen of the factory worker were still ongoing. “We need to check the means by which he purchased them and whether this was done in good faith,” he said, “in addition to reconstructing the stages by which the works, arrived in Italy after they were stolen.”
The article in The Los Angeles Times by David Ng ("Gauguin painting stolen 44 years ago hung in autoworker's kitchen", April 2) includes a video clip from the press conference in Rome led by General Mossa of the Carabinieri's TPC -- the translator quotes General Mossa as saying that the findings are preliminary and the investigation is ongoing:
Officials in Italy held an unveiling ceremony Wednesday in Rome for the two paintings: Gauguin's "Fruits sur une Table ou Nature au Petit Chien," or "Fruit on a Table or Still Life With a Puppy," and Bonnard's "La Femme aux Deux Fauteuils," or "Woman on Two Armchairs."