1 Oct 2010

Portrait of Major George Maule by Johann Zoffany

Portrait of Major George Maule by Johann Zoffany Image

Portrait of Major George Maule by Johann Zoffany

What could have been a protracted legal battle between two very well financed European families and their copious sets of lawyers, has been amicably settled by the Art Loss Register’s art mediation team.

The disputed painting was stolen in 1979 from the private London residence of Major General Sheffield, a direct descendant of Major George Maule. Following the death of Major General Sheffield in 1987, his children continued the search for this much beloved family portrait and placed the painting on the Art Loss Register’s database of stolen artwork.

In March 2009 the painting was identified as an upcoming lot in Sotheby’s high profile sale of the contents of Gianni Versace’s Lake Como Villa. The Art Loss Register contacted Sotheby’s Legal Department who withdrew the work from sale and held it until the ownership dispute was resolved.

The parties then sought the assistance of the Art Loss Register, who in addition to locating stolen artwork, also specialise in negotiating art related disputes. While the settlement details remain understandably confidential, the parties have agreed to release the information surrounding the recovery and return of the picture to the Sheffield heirs.

The Art Loss Register's Director of Recoveries praised Sotheby’s for their cooperation, and commended both the Versace and Sheffield families for resisting the urge to pour enormous sums of money into the coffers of London and Milan’s largest law firms.

“There is no doubt that Gianni Versace had no knowledge that this painting was stolen when he purchased it in the 1980’s – this was just another testament to his incredible eye for art and fashion. This portrait does however hold particular sentimental value to the Sheffield heirs and the Versace family were extremely gracious in their willingness to compromise in seeing its return.”