THE Art Gallery of NSW has ignored police advice to offer a reward which could secure the return of a $1.4 million painting stolen in an embarrassing theft.
An art theft expert said a reward could have "thrown a line of communication to the thieves" but the gallery refused to follow advice from The Rocks police and put up the money.
The 17th century painting by Dutch master Frans van Mieris was unscrewed from a wall while 6000 art lovers passed through the gallery on June 9.
Rewards have been used around the world for decades to entice thieves to return artwork, with some caught as they negotiated a ransom, criminologist Ken Polk said yesterday.
In one of the most high-profile cases, arrests were made within two days of a reward being offered for the return of the Edvard Munch masterpiece The Scream in Norway two years ago.
It is understood police first approached the gallery about a month ago after finding few leads in their hunt to find van Mieris' A Cavalier.
Any reward could have been as high as $150,000, with 10 per cent of the value of the work considered appropriate, experts said yesterday.
Interpol, the FBI and Scotland Yard have been alerted to the theft but in the only Australian development, a man aged in his mid-40s was caught by police placing a fake picture of the painting on eBay.
"I'm surprised they're not engaging in negotiations," Professor Polk from Melbourne University said yesterday.
"In the past there have been a number of cases where ransoms have been negotiated either to catch the thief or have the artwork returned. The (gallery) may know something in this circumstance and have decided a reward is not appropriate."
A spokeswoman for the gallery refused to confirm how much the police advised should be offered as a reward.
"After consultation with other organisations, the gallery is not going ahead with a reward at this stage," the spokeswoman said.
The gallery's refusal to follow police advice has come after it emerged that the gallery waited a day after detecting the theft before notifying police.
It was another two days before the public and gallery visitors were alerted to the theft and asked to come forward if they saw anything suspicious.
The Daily Telegraph reported earlier this month that a delicate wood carving of a magnolia by Tokyo-based artist Yoshihiro Suda was plucked from a display wall at the doorway of the gallery's Asian exhibit in 2004.
The sculpture - worth $35,000 - has never been found.
QUINTONS FARM HOUSE
who also extort money for investigating art thefts, not that much art is ever recovered down to their efforts, it is just a Gravy Train for ex-police officers to exploit.