Lewes auction house helps solve art theft mystery

stolen picture SUS-150607-160158001
stolen picture SUS-150607-160158001

A Lewes auction house has helped solve an art theft mystery.

Six 19th century oil paintings which were going to be sold by Gorringes were found to be part of a large theft of 49 valuable artworks stolen from the storage depot of the Amsterdam Museum in 1972.

The Dutch police were informed and registered the stolen pictures on the Art Loss Register, the world’s largest private database of stolen and missing art, antiques and collectibles. It provides a due diligence service to auction houses like Gorringes who use the database to check items before sale.

“They can then be returned to their rightful owners.

The paintings, by Dutch artists Frederik Hendrik Kaemmerer, Charles Rochussen and August Allebé, Belgian artists Florent Willems and Charles van Beveren, and Polish-French artist Emile Eisman Semenowsky, were innocently consigned to Gorringes by a local seller.

Clear indications of their background were catalogue numbers on the back of each frame suggesting they were part of a museum collection.

Clifford Lansberry, Gorringes partner and head of pictures said: “No auctioneer wishes to handle stolen art. Whilst every effort is made to identify stolen artworks it is particularly difficult to do so when something was stolen many years ago and has now passed into innocent hands. The services of the Art Loss Register are invaluable in assisting art market professionals and in the recovery of stolen artwork.”

The paintings were acquired by the seller’s wife in 1991 while she was living in a care home. It turned out the price she was asked was well below their true value, though she had no way of knowing this at the time.

They passed to her husband after her death. After hearing about their history he gave up his rights to them.

Paul Spies, Amsterdam Museum director said: “They were a great loss and we are grateful to the Art Loss Register, Gorringes and their consignor for their contribution in recovering the paintings which we had little hope of seeing again.”

Julian Radcliffe, Chairman of the Art Loss Register said, “We are very pleased that our service for the victims of art theft, such as the Amsterdam Museum, and for our clients who search, such as Gorringes, has produced this excellent result in the return of these pictures.”

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