A stolen still life painting by Paul Gauguin has been recovered after hanging on a Sicilian factory worker’s wall for 40 years.
The Associated Press (AP) report that the worker bought the painting, along with another by Pierre Bonnard, at a lost property auction in 1975 for just US$100. Authorities estimate that the Gauguin could be worth up to £25 Million ($40 Million).
Major Massimiliano Quagliarella of the Carabinieri art theft squad told AP: “The painting, showing fruit, seemed to fit in with dining room decor.”
The painting was stolen from a British art collector’s home and was eventually found by railway workers on a train travelling from Paris to Turin. The workers put it in the lost-and-found depot. After no one claimed it, it was placed in an auction where the factory worker purchased it.
It wasn’t until the man’s son realised that the small dog curled in the corner is typical of Gauguin that the painting’s true origins were discovered. He contacted an art expert for an evaluation, who then informed the Carabinieri’s art theft squad.
The painting is now in the custody of the art squad, where it will remain until police receive an official notice that it has been stolen.
Italian culture minister Dario Franceschini said that the painting’s recovery was an “extraordinary” find.
There may now be a battle for custody of the painting. Under Italian law, the factory worker could have a right to it if he can prove be bought it in good faith.
Chris Marinello of Art Recovery International said, “I’m sure this is not the last we will hear of this.”