The Art Loss Register recovers cherished family heirloom after nearly 15 years

On the 6thof November 2014 a UK auction house approached the Art Loss Register about a painting which a person had brought in for consignment to auction, as they suspected something out of the ordinary. The consignor had bought it at a car boot sale five years earlier for a mere £10. The Art Loss Register searched the painting against its database and discovered that it was a match with a picture which had been reported to them as stolen from a family home in North London on the 29th of March 2000, nearly 15 years ago.

The picture had meant a great deal to the theft victim and his family thanks to a close family connection to the artist, Thomas Francis Dicksee. The owner’s grandfather, a friend of the artist’s more famous son Sir Frank Dicksee PRA, had married Frank’s sister-in-law Faith and the painting had been passed down through the family ever since. The theft victim commented:

After it was stolen from us 14 years ago I had given up hope of seeing it again, and for a long time felt bad about not having taken better care of it. The most sensible thing I did do at the time was record the theft on the Art Loss Register.

The Art Loss Register immediately notified the auction house of the fact that the picture was stolen property, and the auction house in turn withdrew it from sale. The auction house provided their full assistance and cooperated closely during the subsequent investigation by the Art Loss Register and police.

The consignor was informed of the painting’s origins and, shocked to find that she had purchased a stolen work, agreed to give up any rights to the painting so that it could be returned to the theft victim. The Art Loss Register was able to collect the painting from the auction house and hand it back to the theft victim just five weeks after the item was first queried.

At the time of the theft the painting was partially insured and the insurer paid out £5,000 to the theft victim – little consolation perhaps for a cherished family heirloom. To enable the return of the painting to the family the Art Loss Register arranged for this sum to be returned to the insurer, thus securing them a benefit from the recovery as well.

For the Art Loss Register, this case is a perfect example of what can be achieved through the cooperation of all those drawn into the recovery process. It also illustrates that what is important in the recovery of stolen art is not just the financial value of the item, but also its emotional significance to the original owner. The Charmian painting, although of relatively low value, was considered priceless by the family that owned it.

The owner, reunited with his treasured picture, said:

I am delighted that the painting has been recovered after all these years, thanks entirely to the Art Loss Register and to the auction house for making the search when the picture came to their notice.