French national treasure recovered by The Art Loss Register

The Art Loss Register has recovered a large 18th century Pastoral Tapestry by the famous French manufacturer Aubusson, which was stolen from a Château in France in 1982, and it will now be returned to its rightful home. The Château is classified as a historic monument and the tapestry, which was hanging in its Salon, formed part of the protected interior décor.

The theft was publicised by the French National police and the French Ministry of Culture. It was also recorded on the Art Loss Register’s database.

In February 2014, 32 years after the theft, the Art Loss Register spotted the tapestry being offered for sale during the routine catalogue search of a sale at a major auction house in London. The Art Loss Register informed the auction house that it was believed to be stolen property, and the tapestry was withdrawn from sale. The consignor to the auction house had bought the tapestry at a flea market in Paris in the 1990s, and could provide no further information as to where it had been previously.

The Art Loss Register notified the French police and liaised with the owner of the Château as well as the French Ministry of Culture. The experts at the French Ministry of Culture for Historic Monuments actively assisted in the identifying the tapestry. They concluded that it was the same as the one which had been stolen from the Château based upon matching faded areas, damage marks and several repairs. The French Ministry of Culture also confirmed that it was a National Treasure under the order of 23 October 1974 and therefore could not be permanently exported from France. As a result a sale outside France simply was not possible.

In the months since the tapestry was relocated by the Art Loss Register, a resolution of the matter has now been agreed between the consignor and the theft victim, and the tapestry will now be returned to France.

James Ratcliffe, Director of Recoveries and General Counsel at the Art Loss Register, commented that “This case shows how even after decades it is possible for treasures such as this to be returned to their rightful homes. Interestingly, this is the second historic tapestry that the Art Loss Register has secured the recovery of to a French Chateau in recent years. In 2014 an 18th century Louis XIV tapestry looted from a Normandy Chateau during the Nazi occupation of France was returned, some 70 years after it had disappeared. Both cases illustrate the benefit for dealers, auction houses and buyers of searching with the Art Loss Register to make sure that they are not selling stolen or looted property.”