Double portrait of Sir Peter Rubens and Sir Anthony Van Dyck recovered after more than 40 years

It is with great excitement that the Art Loss Register announces the recovery of a Double portrait of Sir Peter Rubens and Sir Anthony Van Dyck to the Devonshire Collection at Chatsworth House.

The unusual medallion portraits of Van Dyck and Rubens painted in grisaille sit in an elaborately
painted frame and underneath each portrait is the artist’s escutcheon. It was thought that this
grisaille painting could be the preliminary inspiration for the Pontius print of the same scene.
The painting belongs to the Duke of Devonshire and forms part of his personal collection. It was
stolen whilst on loan for an exhibition at the old Towner Gallery in Eastbourne in 1979.

There was no sign of the painting after the theft until December 2020 when it resurfaced at a small
regional auction house in Toulon, France. The painting was located by Dr Bert Schepers, a specialist
in seventeenth-century Flemish paintings and drawings based in Antwerp who recognised that it was
from the Chatsworth collection. The lot was withdrawn from sale and the auction house held the
artwork until the matter could be resolved. Dr Schepers alerted the Trustees of Chatsworth House
who contacted the ALR to ask them to represent them in recovering the artwork.

The painting had been registered on the ALR database since 2015 however, the auction house where
the painting reappeared was not a subscriber to the ALR’s due diligence services and so were not
able to identify that it was stolen property until they had offered it for sale. Nonetheless, as soon as
the auction house was notified that the painting was stolen, they and their consignor were quick to

It was soon established that the painting had been found in the consignor’s late parents’ house in
Eastbourne which had been occupied by squatters shortly following the theft. The consignor had
kept the painting ever since as a memento of their parents before consigning it to sale in France
where they are now based.

The consignor to the sale agreed to return the painting to Chatsworth House following a small
finder’s fee which they kindly donated to charitable causes.

Lucy O’Meara, Recoveries Manager at the ALR commented that: “It is unusual to be able to trace a
picture back so closely to the location of its theft over more than 40 years earlier. Despite that long
period of time since the loss, we are delighted to have been able to secure its return to Chatsworth
where it belongs, and this should give hope to others who are still seeking the return of pictures
stolen decades ago.”

Alice Martin, Head of the Devonshire Collections: We are very grateful to the expert team at the Art Loss Register for their assistance in recovering this painting. Their guidance was invaluable in securing a successful outcome. Registrations with the Art Loss Register can be a vital tool in the recovery of stolen art.

The painting is now back and on display at Chatsworth House.


Eramus Quelliness II’s A Double Portrait of Sir Peter Paul Rubens and Sir Anthony Van Dyck