1 May 2011

Chamberlains Worcester Vase

Stolen from Berkeley Castle in May 1999. One item depicts Berkeley Castle. Identified and recovered by the Art Loss Register in 2010.

The rare pieces were stolen in the early hours of Wednesday 5th May 1999 from the Berkeley family’s treasured collection of porcelain. While the theft was investigated by Gloucestershire Police the Castle’s Custodian immediately registered the stolen objects with the Art Loss Register (‘ALR’). Over the course of the next eleven years the ALR, who maintain the largest international private database of lost, stolen and missing artwork, continued to search the international art market for the much missed pieces.

In September 2010 whilst carrying out a routine catalogue search of a subscribing UK auction house, the ALR identified the stolen Ice Pail and Twin Handled Vase. Working quickly and with the full cooperation of the auction house, the ALR organised for the pieces to be withdrawn from the impending sale and safely stored. The ALR then contacted the consignors, a local couple who were hoping to auction the contents of their home.

Upon hearing that the works were stolen from Berkeley Castle (an image of which actually adorns the Twin Handled Vase) the shocked couple agreed to immediately release the works for return to their rightful owner.

After liaising with law enforcement, the regional auction house and insurer, the ALR coordinated the return of the porcelain late last week. The Berkeley Family, who have occupied the estate since the 12th Century, are said to be overjoyed at the recovery and return of the valuable works to the Castle’s collection. The pieces are scheduled to go back on display in the China Room from May 2011.

Alice Farren-Bradley, a member of the ALR Recoveries Team, commented “We applaud the decision of the consignors and their lawyer to release these precious pieces for return to their rightful owner. Sadly, UK law does not give an innocent purchaser of stolen artwork an automatic right to compensation, making pre-acquisition due diligence all the more important.”