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Displaying items by tag: art loss register

Stolen in 1982, a large French pastoral tapestry dating to the mid-18th century has been returned to its original home after more than three decades and now hangs in a château in Normandy.

The Art Loss Register, the privately run database of stolen and looted art, spotted the wall hanging in the catalogue of a London auction house in February 2014, but the find has only recently been made public after follow-up investigations.

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The Art Newspaper has discovered that the largest and most powerful due diligence service used by the art world is at the center of three separate provenance disputes, two of which are working their way through international courts.

The Art Loss Register (ALR), a company founded by Julian Radcliffe that works with law enforcement officials worldwide, more than 80 auction houses, most major art fairs and innumerable collectors and dealers, has provided certificates confirming that works of art were free from claim, when they were in fact subject to claims by third parties or stolen.

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Nearly 35 years ago, a Chinese jade artwork from the 18th century was stolen from a display case at Harvard University’s Fogg Museum. The censer, or incense burner, was returned to the museum on Tuesday, January 21, by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement division following a lengthy investigation. The object  is estimated to be worth $1.5 million.

The green jade censer was donated to the Fogg Museum in 1942 and disappeared shortly after Thanksgiving in 1979. The work remained out of public view until it appeared at Sotheby’s in Hong Kong in 2009. When the censer’s seller failed to provide documentation about the piece’s ownership history, Sotheby’s ran the object through the Art Loss Register of London. The database, which lists works that have been stolen, looted or disputed, alerted the U.S. government of the object’s reappearance and Homeland Security launched its investigation.

A ceremony was held at the Fogg to welcome the jade censer back into the museum’s collection.

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Around 1,500 artworks worth approximately one billion euros ($1.35 billion) were found in a dilapidated apartment in Munich. The shocking discovery was made public on Sunday, November 3 by the German news magazine, Focus. The trove includes works by celebrated impressionist and modern masters such as Henri Matisse, Marc Chagall and Pablo Picasso as well as Old Masters including Albrecht Durer.

The masterpieces, which were allegedly confiscated by Nazis or sold under duress by their Jewish owners, were found in the apartment of Cornelius Gurlitt, the son of the art dealer Hildebrandt Gurlitt, who reportedly acquired the works in the late 1930s and 1940s. Gurlitt’s father had been put in charge of selling the stolen artworks abroad by Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s Minister of Propaganda, but secretly hoarded many of them and later claimed that they were destroyed in the bombing of Dresden. Gurlitt, an unemployed recluse, sold a number of the paintings over the years and lived off of the profits. 200 of the pieces have outstanding return requests from the original owners’ heirs.

In a shocking twist, it was revealed that officials have known about the looted artworks since 2011, when investigators searched Gurlitt’s apartment after he was caught by customs authorities on a train from Switzerland to Munich with a large amount of cash. Julian Radcliffe, chairman of the Art Loss Register, told AFP, “I think it’s the biggest find of Holocaust pictures that there’s been for years, but it’s still a tiny fraction of the total number of pictures that we’re looking for.” The works are currently being held in a customs warehouse outside of Munich.    

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The descendants of a Parisian art dealer are demanding that the Henie Onstad Art Center near Oslo, Norway return Henri Matisse’s (1869-1954) Blue Dress in a Yellow Armchair (1937) to them. Nazis seized the painting from its owner, Paul Rosenberg, prior to the outbreak of World War II. Ultimately, Rosenberg, one of the most prominent French art dealers and a personal friend of Pablo Picasso and Matisse, fled to New York and survived the war.

The painting in dispute has been a celebrated part of the Onstad’s collection since the museum was established in 1968. The work was donated to the fledgling institution by art collector Niels Onstad and his wife Sonjia Henie, an Olympic figure skater. Museum Director Tone Hansen attests that Onstad and Henie bought the painting from the Parisian Galerie Henri Benezit in 1950, unaware of its troublesome provenance. Hansen was unaware that Nazis had stolen the painting until the Art Loss Register, an organization that tracks lost and stolen paintings, notified him in 2012.

Art Registry documents show that Rosenberg purchased Blue Dress in a Yellow Armchair directly from Matisse in 1937. Following World War II, Rosenberg attempted to re-establish his business and tried to recover the 400+ works that had been taken from him by the Nazis. The painting was marked on Rosenberg’s personal documents as missing after the war. He also reported the painting missing to French authorities in 1946.

While Rosenberg’s heirs hope that the painting will be returned to their family, Norwegian law states that if a person has had an item in good faith for over 10 years, they are deemed the rightful owner. However, the argument is in contrast to the Washington Conference Principles on Nazi-Confiscated Art, which Norway is a part of.

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Monday, 07 January 2013 12:22

Stolen Matisse Painting Recovered in England

A painting worth $1 million by the French artist Henri Matisse (1869-1954) was recovered in Essex, England. Stolen from the Museum of Modern Art in Stockholm in 1987, the location of Le Jardin (1920) has remained a mystery for more than twenty years.

The discovery occurred when British art dealer Charles Roberts of Charles Fine Art was offered the Matisse painting by a Polish collector. Roberts ran a search on the Art Loss Register (ALR) database, a hub for information regarding stolen artworks, and found Le Jardin listed. Christopher A. Marinello, executive director and general counsel of the ALR, facilitated the painting’s recovery and it is currently being held in the organization’s office before being returned to Sweden in the coming weeks.

Le Jardin was the only artwork stolen during the 1987 burglary when thieves broke through the museum’s front entrance with a sledgehammer and unscrewed it from the wall. The burglars escaped just minutes before private guards arrived to investigate the scene. Following the robbery, the thieves made several attempts to sell the painting back to the museum for an exorbitant sum. Museum officials resisted, knowing that the Matisse painting was too well known to sell on the open market and that it would resurface eventually.

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