Sudbury: Art dealer recovers stolen Matisse worth £1m

Le Jardin by Henri Matisse

Le Jardin by Henri Matisse - Credit: Archant

AN ART dealer has been commended after he recovered a stolen £1m painting that had been missing for a quarter of a century.

In the run up to Christmas Charles Roberts, who lives near Sudbury, was approached by a collector who wanted him to sell a work by French artist Henri Matisse. The collector said he had owned the work called Le Jardin since the 1990s and that he was selling it to raise money for his family.

But after carrying out background checks on the painting, Mr Roberts discovered the artwork had been stolen from the Museum of Modern Art in Stockholm in 1987 after burglars broke in using sledgehammers.

“I had no reason to suspect it was stolen as it had been in the collection for twenty years,” said Mr Roberts, who runs an art dealership called Charles Fine Art based in London.

“I thought it would be a standard transaction but I discovered it was stolen when I carried out due diligence. What can you do? It’s only right the painting is returned to it rightful owner.”

The unfortunate information had come following a search of the Art Loss Register, a database that lists more than 300,000 stolen and missing pieces of art worldwide. Once the discovery had been confirmed, the case was handed over to the Register’s executive director Christopher Marinello, who organised the painting’s return.

Mr Marinello said: “Everyone was very co-operative and it was a quick recovery. Mr Roberts should be applauded for his conduct in this instance.

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“There are some dealers who think more about the profit they might make and don’t care whether a painting is stolen or not.”

Mr Marinello said the painting is being kept in a safe until it can be handed over to the Swedish Ministry of Culture.

And while Mr Roberts may be feeling a sense of loss, officials at the Museum of Modern Art in Stockholm are eagerly anticipating the painting’s return.

“It would be fantastic to see Le Jardin again, and we are in high hopes that it can be returned to the Swedish people,” said the museum’s director, Daniel Birnbaum.

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