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Thursday, March 01, 2018

Stolen Art Watch, Degas Surfaces, Carravagio Re-visited, Nazi Looted Art Displayed, Plus Round-up

French customs officers have found an impressionist painting by Edgar Degas stowed on a bus, more than eight years after it was reported stolen.
The French Culture Ministry said Friday that customs agents in Marne-la-Vallee were surprised to find a work of art bearing the signature "Degas" inside a suitcase in the bus' luggage compartment. The ministry says none of the passengers claimed the suitcase during the Feb. 16 search.
Experts verified the artwork as Degas' "Les Choristes" ("The Chorus Singers"), which depicts a scene from Mozart's opera "Don Giovanni."
The painting was stolen from a Marseille museum in 2009 while on loan from Paris' Musee d'Orsay.
French Culture Minister Francoise Nyssen said she was delighted by the recovery of a work "whose disappearance represented a heavy loss for the French impressionist heritage."

Did stolen Caravaggio go to Switzerland?

Mafia informant claims the painting, which is included in the FBI’s list of top ten art crimes, was sold to a Swiss dealer

Italian investigators are following a new lead in the hope of solving one of the most notorious art crimes of the past 50 years: the theft of Caravaggio’s Nativity with St Francis and St Lawrence from a Baroque oratory in Palermo, Sicily, in October 1969.
In testimony to the Italian parliament’s standing commission on organised crime, recently revealed in La Repubblica newspaper, the mafia member turned informant Gaetano Grado said the painting was initially stolen by small-time criminals. The subsequent press coverage of the theft alerted the mafia to the painting’s importance and potential value. The criminal organisation made it known they wished to receive the work and the Caravaggio was duly presented to Gaetano Badalamenti, the head of the Sicilian Mafia Commission known as the Cupola, which rules on disputes between competing mafia families, Grado said.
Badalamenti then sold the work to a Swiss dealer who travelled to Palermo to finalise the deal, Grado said, adding that Badalamenti told him the painting would be cut into pieces to transport it abroad. When shown photographs of several Swiss dealers, Grado identified the one he claims purchased the Caravaggio from Badalamenti. The name of the dealer in question, now deceased, has not been released.
Rosy Bindi, the head of the government commission on organised crime, said she hopes for “international cooperation” in the investigation of the new information. Grado’s testimony has been shared with the Sicilian authorities.
Mafia claims
The theft of the Caravaggio, which is included in the FBI’s list of the top ten art crimes, has featured in the testimony of numerous mafia informants. The information they have provided has ranged from the unlikely to the absurd. There have been claims that the painting was kept by the mafia for display at their gatherings, that it was stored in a stable and eaten by mice, that it was irreparably damaged during its theft and then destroyed, and even that it was used as a bedside carpet by a mafia boss.

France Hopes Exhibit Of Nazi-Stolen Art Can Aid Stalled Search For Owners

Paintings looted by Nazis during World War II, are on display at the Louvre museum, in Paris. In a move aimed at returning work of art looted by Nazis during World War II, the Louvre museum has opened two showrooms with 31 paintings on display which can be claimed by their legitimate owners.
Christophe Ena/AP
France's most famous museum recently designated two rooms for paintings looted by Nazis in World War II. The rightful owners of these works never have been found, and the Louvre says the exhibit is a continuation of the search. But critics say the museum has not done nearly enough over the years.
The 31 paintings include French, Italian and Flemish artists — eclectic works from various periods that once were destined for the personal collections of Nazi officials and an art museum Hitler was planning for Austria. What the paintings have in common is that they all were stolen or obtained through forced sales from Jewish families.
Louvre curator Vincent Delieuvin says the display is a symbol to remind people that the museum has not forgotten.
"Unlike in the regular collections, we've hung the paintings closely together to evoke the intimateness of a private home," he says. "We want to find the rightful owners of these paintings, but we also want these rooms to serve as a place of memory — a place where people can come reflect on this terrible time in history where Jewish families fled or were killed and their artworks were plundered."
Parisian Collete Grillot, 86, felt it was important to come view the paintings.
"I lived through the war when I was a child and it has marked my whole life," she says. "I'm not Jewish, but at school I had a Jewish friend who wore the Star of David."
Valerie Sutter, a French teacher from Florida, also visited the museum to take in and reflect on the collection.

"I find this fascinating," she says. "That they're still looking, and that they're still hoping to find the owners. I find that very touching, very worthy."
Others are not sure how worthy the Louvre's efforts have been. The exhibit has been criticized for lacking historical context and for being relegated to two tiny, obscure rooms.
Lawyer Corinne Hershkovitch says the Louvre only really has become proactive on the issue of Nazi-looted artwork in the past few years.
In 1999, Hershkovitch successfully sued the Louvre to get back several paintings that were sold at auction in 1941, a year after their owner's death. While the sale of the artwork appeared to have taken place legally, Hershkovitch argued that the fact that the owner's children were unable to attend — because they had fled Nazi-occupied Paris — made it a forced sale. Hershkovitch won.
"They've done too little, too late," she says of the Louvre. "And there's sometimes been this whole sentiment of 'why are you coming to bother us with this 50 and 60 years later?' "
The Louvre currently has custody of around 800 stolen or forced-sale paintings whose owners are still unknown. Most are hanging in museums across France. Curator Delieuvin says that's to give them maximum exposure to the public.
For Hershkovitch, putting museums in charge of giving back artworks was the first mistake.
"Curators want to conserve paintings," she says. "That's their job."
She admits that most families who get artworks back usually do sell them, so not only does the museum lose an important work, but it sees it go on the market to be bought by another museum or a private collector.
During World War II, the Nazis took around 100,000 artworks from France. Some 60,000 were brought back to France after the war, and 45,000 of those immediately were reclaimed by their owners. Then, says Hershkovitch, everything slowed to a halt.
"The Jews wanted to reintegrate into French society and the French wanted to forget about the collaboration, so there was a kind of consensus to pull a veil over all this and move on," she says.

Standingwith French Culture Minister Françoise Nyssen, Christopher Bromberg and Henrietta Schubert, grandchildren of Henry and Hertha Bromberg, view Flemish painter Joachim Patinir's Triptych of the Crucifixion, which was returned to them Monday by the French state.
Didier Plowy/Ministère de la Culture
Hershkovitch says all that changed with the next generation, who raised consciousness worldwide about the issue in the '90s. In 1998 in Washington, DC, 44 countries signed new international protocols for the identification and return of Nazi confiscated art."
A seminal moment in France came with President Jacques Chirac's 1995 speech on the anniversary of a famous roundup of Paris Jews during the war. Chirac said the Velodrome d'Hiver roundup had been carried out not by the Nazis, but by French police.
He said France, a country of enlightenment and human rights, had been complicit in Nazi barbarism. He called on the French to face this dark chapter in their history. It was the first time the country confronted its role in the deportation of some 72,000 Jews during the war.
Hershkovitch says it was huge, and that "Chirac's speech changed things both morally and judicially."
Hershkovitch says people had not come to terms with the country's collaborationist Vichy regime because the hero of the resistance, president Charles DeGaulle, had acted as if Vichy were not part of France.
"He put Vichy in a sort of parenthesis of French history," she says. "And when you put something aside and don't confront it, you cannot solve the problem."
In 1997 France launched a three year investigation into the theft of Jewish art under the Nazi occupation. The ensuing "Matteoli Report" offered propositions for finding and compensating victims and for increasing national awareness of Nazi looting.
That eventually led to the creation of a working group to actively search for the artworks' rightful owners, instead of waiting for them to come forward. The group includes the French culture and foreign ministries, museum curators and the Shoah Foundation.
The French culture ministry also has put its vast database of Nazi looted artworks, including photos, online.
Delieuvin says that database is the best way to link a looted painting to its rightful owner, which he describes as a very complicated process.
"The other day a family came to us with a picture of the work and we found it on the database," he says. But Delieuvan says most often there's no picture or even the name of the person who once owned the art.
Many art sales took place during the war, but not all of them were forced sales. Delieuvin says that if a work was sold at auction it is much easier to track, because records can be obtained showing the buyer and the seller. "If the seller was Jewish, then there's a good chance it was a forced sale," he says.
But plenty of non-Jews also sold works to Nazis during the war. If it was a private sale, Delieuvin says there's usually no trace of who the seller was.
France is still conserving about 2,000 artworks that are thought to have been looted or obtained through forced sales by Nazis. Only around 100 have been returned since the 1950s.
American Christopher Bromberg has gotten back two of his family's artworks. Bromberg's grandfather was forced to sell his paintings quickly as he fled Nazi Germany in 1938 through Switzerland and France to reach the United States.
In a ceremony in Paris last week, French culture minister Françoise Nyssen returned a 16th century Flemish painting to Bromberg and his sister Henrietta Schubert.
Nyssen called the restitution of the plundered work a struggle for justice and memory.
"This is a moment of pain and of hope," she said. "After 70 years and much searching, this painting has been returned to its rightful owner."
Nyssen promised France would continue to fight relentlessly for the return of Nazi looted artworks to their rightful owners.
In 2016 Bromberg was handed over another one of his grandfather's paintings in a similar ceremony.
"There's this feeling of thanks and gratitude that is more valuable than the paintings themselves," he said. "It's the society that I want to take my hat off to, that allows this kind of event to take place."

A Stolen Watch Used to Mean Ready Cash for Thieves. Not Any More

Katya Hills is the managing director of the Watch Register, which provides both identification and recovery services of lost and stolen watches. Credit Tom Jamieson for The New York Times

Watches have long been easy targets for thieves. Stolen off a wrist or taken in a smash-and-grab attack, high-end timepieces, easily transportable and often untraceable, could easily be turned into cash.
But that has been changing. The rise of online services specializing in identifying lost or stolen watches has helped law enforcement, dealers and diligent buyers — even in Miami, which the FBI has identified as one of the top fencing hubs in the United States (and where the Watches & Wonders fair is opening Friday).
“ ‘No mama, no papa’ — that is what they call watches with no papers and no serial number,” Jeff Harris, a Los Angeles-based watch dealer, said. “Those are very easy to trade. After all, a gold Submariner is a gold Submariner.”
To Mr. Harris, the vernacular of that underworld has become all too familiar. He was in Las Vegas last April to attend the International Watch and Jewelry Guild trade show, held at the Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino. With about $2 million in mostly vintage and one-of-a-kind timepieces locked in his room safe, Mr. Harris went to dinner — and returned about an hour later to find the room door broken and the safe missing.
“The safe was crowbarred out of the wall,” Mr. Harris said. “The thief had wrapped it in a towel to take it out to the stairwell. He was caught on video running out of the hotel and jumping into a cab.”

A pair of fake Rolex watches at the Watch Register. Of the 60,000 lost and stolen timepieces in its database, one third are Rolexes. Credit Tom Jamieson for The New York Times

Filippo Salvador Cuomo, who was arrested days later in Miami, was identified from a combination of the surveillance video and a jacket that he left behind in his own room at the hotel. His name had been sewn into the label.
He pleaded guilty to larceny and, through an agreement with Nevada state prosecutors, received a five-year prison sentence; a federal case (he crossed state lines during the crime) is pending.
Mr. Harris’s watches, however, were not recovered. “They made off with a couple of ruby- and sapphire-encrusted Rolex Daytonas, vintage complicated Pateks, Rolexes with Stella dials, a unique Audemars Piguet and other very rare timepieces,” the dealer said.
According to the FBI’s website, organized groups of thieves often use intermediaries, commonly called fences, in cities such as Los Angeles, Houston, New York and Miami to convert stolen goods into cash.
In his case, Mr. Harris said, authorities have leads to two fences in Miami. “We suspect a Miami jeweler and a known Milanese money launderer, identified in the Rio hotel’s surveillance video,” Mr. Harris said. “In the U.S., the hub for stolen watches is Miami. In Europe, it is Italy.”
There are no official statistics on the number of watches stolen around the world each year but the FBI’s website estimates that the jewelry and watch industry in the United States loses more than $100 million annually in retail thefts. Since 1992, the FBI’s Jewelry & Gem Theft program has helped the industry combat such crimes. And, while the bureau does not maintain a database, it does cooperate with the Jewelers’ Security Alliance, a nonprofit trade association that has a registry of stolen watches and jewelry.

5 Things To Consider

  • Taking Precautions

    Receipts, a record of serial numbers and any makers’ certificates or guarantees should be kept — but stored separately from your watches, to avoid losing everything in a robbery. Registry sites recommend that, as an additional precaution, you photograph your watches and all paperwork and then email the images to yourself.
  • Insurance

    Your homeowners’ or renters’ policy may cover theft but check the details. Companies often require high-value items like watches and jewelry to be documented individually, sometimes with valuations. And even if your policy covers losses in a home burglary, it may not cover thefts while traveling or just going about your day.
  • What to Do

    If your watch is lost or stolen, report it to the police and then get an official copy of the complaint. You will need the document to alert the watch’s maker and stolen-watch registries. If the timepiece is found, it also will help establish your claim to the piece.
  • Just Remember

    Social media allows you to broadcast your loss to a wide audience but be aware that there is a risk involved in disclosing a watch’s serial number. A legitimate serial number can, for example, be used on another watch, even a counterfeit one, to improve its chances of being sold.
  • If You're Buying

    It is a good idea to check watch registries for the serial number of any secondhand watch you’re thinking of purchasing. While such a basic search isn’t foolproof, it should turn up any obvious problems.

In Europe, Europol, the European Union’s law enforcement agency based in The Hague, offers similar help to businesses and it works with International Jeweller Security, a registry site.
After the robbery, Mr. Harris posted descriptions of his watches and their serial numbers online. That information was picked up by MyStolenWatch, a specialized theft-check website that, like Watch CSA or WatchFacts, lists stolen watches by serial numbers. “My watches and their serial numbers are now listed on several registers and they also come up in a Google search if anyone checks,” Mr. Harris said.
The theft-check company with the largest global database of stolen watches is Watch Register, a London-based site operated by the Art Loss Register, a well-known stolen art tracking service founded in 1990. The Watch Register provides both identification and recovery services of lost and stolen watches across borders.
“We had been registering watches since 1991 when we first started collecting information about stolen artworks as a service to auction houses,” Katya Hills, managing director of the Watch Register, said. “By 2014, we had sufficient data on watches to provide a targeted service.”
Today, the Watch Register has details about more than 60,000 lost and stolen watches, involving more than 850 brands. One third, according to Ms. Hill, are stolen or lost Rolexes and, while most of the timepieces are modern, there also are vintage ones as well as pocket watches. Users must pay a fee of 10 pounds plus tax (about $13.75) to check the provenance or status of a watch; subscriptions for dealers and pawnshops that need multiple searches also are available.
“Last year alone, we added 10,000 more watches to our database,” Ms. Hills said. “We get between 80,000 to 100,000 search requests per year.”

The Watch Register also deals with older timepieces. “We treat vintage or pocket watches like antiques,” Ms. Hills said. “We use keywords from the description and the image, and the search becomes more sophisticated.” Credit Tom Jamieson for The New York Times

Unlike modern high-end watches, each of which has a unique serial number, vintage timepieces or pocket watches can only be registered by descriptions of their distinctive features. “We treat vintage or pocket watches like antiques,” Ms. Hills said. “We use keywords from the description and the image, and the search becomes more sophisticated.”
The site has had its successes. In 2016, for example, the Watch Register helped recover a Patek Philippe stolen in Naples, Italy, that had turned up in an auction in New York.
When auction houses are preparing an art or watch event, they typically check their lots against both the Art Loss and Watch registers. “All our worldwide catalogs, including online sales, are checked by the Art Loss Register,” said Sabine Kegel, international senior watch specialist at Christie’s in Geneva.
While auction houses, pawnshops and dealers can check such sites before reselling a watch, Mr. Harris said he feared that such online tracking just pushed opportunistic watch thieves further underground.
“People can still buy a stolen watch and wear it, without ever looking up the serial number,” Mr. Harris said. “Also now there are places that can change the serial number on some watches.”
Because his stolen watches were mostly one-of-a-kind or limited editions, Mr. Harris is optimistic that they will be recovered. “My watches are so unique that they can be immediately identified if they ever turn up,” he said. “There are very few buyers in the world for these watches. The best option at this point may be for the thieves to ‘sell’ them back to me.”

More than £100,000 of jewellery stolen from antiques shop after burglars cut a hole in the roo

Police have launched an investigation after thieves entered a Harrogate antiques shop through a hole in the roof and stole more than £100,000 of jewellery and other valuable items.
Hundreds of objects were taken, including a number of highly-distinctive bespoke pieces. The incident took place on Tuesday, 13 February at 27 West Park, opposite the Stray.

Police believe the thieves cut a hole in the roof of the building and climbed through it at around 9.50pm. They broke into a number of cabinets, probably using a jemmy, and emptied them.
Due to the quantity of items taken from a number of different antique and jewellery dealers, police are still in the process of itemising the thefts as part of their ongoing investigation.
However, stolen items include rings; bracelets; earrings; silver, gold and bespoke necklaces; antique pocket watches and high-value designer watches.
Initial estimates put the value of the stolen stock at more than £100,000.
Police have released images of some of the more distinctive pieces in the hope they will be recognised by members of the public.
They include:
  •  An 18-carat gold ring featuring ruby, diamonds and sapphire.
  • A silver Maurice Lacroix wrist watch
  • A distinctive tiered silver necklace with gemstone setting
  • A number of silver and gem-based items of jewellery, including bespoke hand jewellery worn across the palm of the hand with a highly-distinctive leaf effect on the knuckles

Officers have released CCTV images of a person they want to trace as part of their investigation, which has also seen police carry out forensic tests at the scene and extensive enquiries around the area.
A North Yorkshire Police spokesman said: “While the face of the person captured on CCTV is covered, we’re hoping that members of the public who were in the area at the time may remember seeing someone wearing similar items of clothing – a quilted jacket, possibly light in colour, jeans with a long belt, sporty trainers and a small Nike rucksack.
“We also believe there were quite a few members of the public in and around Roberts Street, which is to the rear of the Maplin store, and the surrounding streets and ginnels around the time of the break-in.
“If you were in this area at around 9.50pm on Tuesday and saw a person or group of people acting suspiciously, please let us know – the information may seem trivial to you but it may be important to our investigation.”
Anyone who has any information about the incident or the person pictured on CCTV, or witnessed anyone acting suspiciously in the area at the time should contact North Yorkshire Police on 101, select option 2 and ask for Amanda Hanusch-Moore.
You can also email PC Moore on or contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111. Please quote reference number 12180024704 when sharing information.

Art Theft: Munch’s Oslo Museum ‘Scream’

On the 12 of February 1994, the day of the opening of the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, two men broke into Oslo’s National Gallery and lifted its version of The Scream. The painting had been moved down to a second-level gallery in honour of the Olympic festivities, presumably to become more accessible to the growing number of visitors. It took the thieves 50 seconds to climb a ladder, smash through a window and cut the uninsured artwork from the wall with wire cutters. They left their tools behind to make a swift exit, but not before writing a note reading “Thanks for the poor security”. The entire episode was filmed by security cameras. The international mass media covering the games sensationalised the incident, as expected.
In Lost Art, Jennifer Mundy writes, “In most cases it is clear why a work of art is lost. It can be wilfully destroyed or accidentally mislaid. It may never have been intended to endure; or the materials used may have proved ephemeral. But sometimes the loss can be the result of a cause or a motive that is more difficult to discern or understand. When a work of art is stolen it is usually obvious that the thieves knew what they were taking and why: to use as collateral in criminal activities, to resell on a black market and make major financial gain, or, occasionally, to grace the home of a private collector. (…) there may be an initial flurry of press reports, but a blanket of official silence quickly descends, as the police undertake their enquiries and, more often than not, owners await a ransom demand or contact from an intermediary. Typically, it may be several months or even several years before those holding a stolen artwork make any attempt to contact its owners.”  
This was the case with Munch’s work too. After a month of laying low, the thieves demanded a US$1 million ransom from the gallery, but the latter refused to pay it. Instead, the Norwegian police set up a sting operation in collaboration with the British police and the Getty Museum and the painting was recovered undamaged on the 7th of May 1994. Two Metropolitan Police officers trapped the thieves by pretending they would buy the painting for £250,000. Apparently, it is quite common practice for British police to be involved in recuperating stolen art in Europe, partly because about 60% of it ends up trafficked or clandestinely auctioned in London.
Except for a tiny pinprick, The Scream was indeed found intact in Aasgaarstrand, a seaside town outside Oslo in south Norway where Munch painted many of his well-known works. Two years later, four men were convicted, including one who had already stolen Munch’s The Vampire years earlier, yet they were released on legal grounds as the British agents had operated in Norway under fake identities.
 The extent and gravity of art theft is little known to the general public. “Art theft and the trafficking of stolen works of art is a major criminal business, perhaps the largest in terms of financial value after the illegal trade in arms and drugs. The FBI currently values criminal income from art theft at $6-8 billion a year. The Art Loss Register – a private company that documents and helps trace stolen or lost artworks, antiques and collectables – has over 300,000 items listed in its database and adds a further 10,000 each year. The theft of artworks is commonplace, but it becomes a news item, and lodged in the public’s memory, when the works are by major artists or when they are taken from museums. The loss in these cases is shared and public, and interest may be piqued by the enormous value of the artworks and by details of exactly how they were taken – particularly if there are echoes of well-known films.” (Jennifer Mundy,  Lost Art). It is true that the cinema frequently glorifies the daring of art thieves. Macho art-heist films such as The Thomas Crown Affair (Steve McQueen), Entrapment (Sean Connery), Ocean’s 12 (Brad Pitt) and many more, revel the thrill of the cleverly orchestrated operation of removing a priceless item from the most securely guarded environments.
However, Hollywood perpetuates a flawed myth. Alastair Sooke of The Telegraph researched a far from glamorous, dark side of art theft: “pilfered art will accrue value on the black market. Typically, a stolen painting’s underworld currency will be between three and 10 per cent of its estimated legitimate value, as quoted in the media. (…) It could then be used as collateral, helping to finance drug deals, gun-running, tobacco trafficking, and other illicit activities. (…) “Since the introduction of money-laundering regulations, it has become unsafe for criminals to pay for their operations in cash,” says Dick Ellis, who set up the Art and Antiques Squad at New Scotland Yard. “With its black-market value, stolen art can easily be carried across international borders.” Keep that in mind next time you cheer the art thief in your favourite heist.

'Grey Gardens' estate sues Long Island gallery for owning stolen Jackie Kennedy painting

An East Hampton art gallery is being sued for owning a stolen portrait of Jackie Kennedy Onassis. The painting was featured in a 1998 Hamptons Magazine article.

An East Hampton art gallery is being sued for owning a stolen portrait of Jackie Kennedy Onassis. The painting was featured in a 1998 Hamptons Magazine article.

It’s the highest of high-society legal battles.
The estate of one of the “Grey Gardens” socialites has filed suit against an East Hampton art gallery, claiming that a decades-old portrait of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis is in fact a stolen family heirloom.
Representatives of the late Edith (Little Edie) Bouvier Beale — one half of the reclusive, formerly wealthy mother-daughter duo whose lives were chronicled in the 1976 documentary — insist they have the rightful claim on the painting that went missing in the late 1960s.
Edith (Little Edie) Beale and Onassis were first cousins.
The target of the suit is Terry Wallace, an established East End art dealer who insists the painting legitimately belongs to him.
Wallace told the Daily News he has no intention of turning over the prized portrait without a fight.
“I have clear title to the painting and I have clear ownership of the painting,” he said.
Wallace says he bought the work in the “late 1980s from a very reputable antiques dealer.” But he stopped short of identifying the dealer.
The piece of art at the center of the high-brow legal brawl in Long Island federal court was painted in 1950 long before then-19-year-old Jacqueline Lee Bouvier met John F. Kennedy.
It was commissioned by the future First Lady’s father, John Vernou Bouvier III — a well-heeled stockbroker nicknamed “Black Jack” — and painted by Irwin Hoffman.
Neither side would put a price tag on the painting but that’s perhaps the only thing they agree on.
Before he died, Black Jack gave the portrait to his sister Edith Ewing Bouvier Beale, known as “Big Edie.”
Big Edie and Little Edie lived together at a decaying mansion in East Hampton known as Grey Gardens.

A 1941 photo shows Onassis walking down East Hampton and One Gracie Square in New York City.

A 1941 photo shows Onassis walking down East Hampton and One Gracie Square in New York City.

The lawsuit said there was at least one burglary in the 1960s or 1970s. But the Beales, who feuded with local officials, didn’t report the theft.
Before Little Edie's 2002 death in Florida at age 84, she reminded her nephew and future estate executor, that valuables like the painting were filched from Grey Gardens.
The suit said a 1998 Hamptons Magazine article showcased the portrait. Then in 2004, Beale’s nephew’s wife, Eva, spotted it at Wallace Gallery.
When she asked Wallace about the portrait's origins, he told her the same thing he would later tell The News — that it came from a dealer he refused to identify who had since died.
In 2016, Eva Beale found the 1998 article in Little Edie’s records and determined it was the stolen painting she was referring to years ago.
The suit was filed Thursday after Wallace rebuffed Beale's request to hand over the painting or at least provide information on its provenance.
“After the gallery repeatedly denied its requests for return of the Jackie portrait and for information about its provenance — information regularly provided to art buyers in the ordinary course of business — the Estate was forced to commence this action,” said Megan Noh, one of the estate's lawyers.
Noh called the portrait “a long-lost heirloom, a piece of the Bouvier family's legacy and, indeed, of American history.
“The family is very much looking forward to being reunited with it,” she added.
But Wallace said he wouldn't risk wrecking his business or reputation with questionable works after running his gallery for the past 25 years.
“If the painting was stolen, I would be the first one to give it back to them,” he said.

A Long-Lost Nigerian Masterpiece Found in a London Apartment Just Set a Record at Bonhams

Lost for decades, the rediscovered portrait was a hit at auction.
Ben Enwonwu, Tutu (1974). Courtesy of Bonhams London.
A long-lost masterpiece by Nigerian artist Ben Enwonwu sold yesterday for £1.2 million ($1.67 million) at “Africa Now,” the first-ever evening sale of contemporary African art at Bonhams London. The 1974 painting, titled Tutu, depicts Adetutu Ademiluyi, a Nigerian royal princess. Hammered down to an anonymous phone bidder after a 20-minute bidding war, it is now the most expensive Nigerian Modernist work ever sold at auction.
The painting had been assumed lost for decades before the family that owned it invited a Bonhams specialist to appraise it late last year. “I was absolutely staggered when I first saw the piece. The owners, who had inherited it, had no idea of its current value,” Giles Peppiatt, the director of African art at Bonhams, told Nigerian novelist Ben Okri in the Financial Times.
The painting is “the most significant discovery in contemporary African art in over 50 years,” Okri wrote. “It is the only authentic Tutu, the equivalent of some rare archaeological find.”
Ben Enwonwu, <em>Tutu</em> (1973). The first of three <em>Tutu</em> paintings was stolen in 1994 and its whereabouts remain unknown. Courtesy of Bonhams London.
Ben Enwonwu, Tutu (1973). The first of three Tutu paintings was stolen in 1994 and its whereabouts remain unknown. Courtesy of Bonhams London.
Enwonwu tracked down the princess in the town of Ile-Ife and convinced the royal family to let him paint her portrait in 1974. The painting became a Nigerian icon, a sort of African Mona Lisa; poster reproductions hang on walls all over the country, according to the FT.
The pre-sale estimate for the work topped out at just £300,000 ($266,000). According to the artnet Price Database, the artist’s previous record at auction was £361,250 ($544,042) for a set of seven wooden sculptures commissioned by the Daily Mirror in 1960 and sold at Bonhams London in 2013.
These seven wooden sculptures commissioned from Ben Enwonwu by the <em>Daily Mirror</em> in 1960 previously held the artist's auction record. Photo courtesy of Bonhams London.
These seven wooden sculptures commissioned from Ben Enwonwu by the Daily Mirror
in 1960 previously held the artist’s auction record. Photo courtesy of Bonhams London.
Tutu was last publicly exhibited in 1975 at the Italian embassy in Lagos, and its whereabouts were unknown for decades. Enwonwu made three original Tutu works featuring Asemiluyi, of which this is the second. The other two have since been lost; the first version was stolen shortly before the artist’s death in 1994. (The sitter is believed to still be alive and living in Lagos, although members of her family are reportedly unsure of her exact whereabouts.)
“The portrait of Tutu is a national icon in Nigeria and of huge cultural significance. It is very exciting to have played a part in the discovery and sale of this remarkable work,” Peppiatt said in a statement. He said he has often been asked to examine Tutu works, but up until now they had all been prints.
Ben Enwonwu, <em>Tutu</em> (1974). Courtesy of Bonhams London.
Ben Enwonwu, Tutu (1974). Courtesy of Bonhams London.
Painted three years after the end of the Nigerian Civil War, Tutu was intended as an expression of national unity—the artist and the princess’s tribes had been on opposite sides of the conflict—and Enwonwu’s way of celebrating his country’s cultural identity. “He thought she epitomized what he was trying to push about Africa,” Oliver Enwonwu, the artist’s son, told the Guardian

'Stolen works' sentence of Picasso's electrician overturned

France's highest appeal court has overturned the conviction of Pablo Picasso's former electrician and his wife, who were given suspended sentences for keeping 271 of his works in their garage for four decades.
'Stolen works' sentence of Picasso's electrician overturned
'Stolen works' sentence of Picasso's electrician overturned
Pierre and Danielle Le Guennec were given two-year suspended jail sentences in 2015 for possession of stolen goods, in a case that made headlines worldwide.
A higher court upheld the verdict in 2016 but the Cour de Cassation, in a ruling seen by AFP Thursday, overturned it.
Ruling there was insufficient evidence that "the goods held by the suspects had been stolen" the court ordered a retrial.
The couple's lawyer Antoine Vey hailed the ruling.
"It's a great decision which reinforces the line that Le Guennecs have always upheld -- that there was no theft whatsoever."
The retrial will offer them "a huge opportunity to finally establish the truth", Vey said.
The collection, whose value has not been assessed, includes drawings of women and horses, nine rare Cubist collages from the time Picasso was working with fellow French artist Georges Braque and a work from his famous "blue period".
At his original trial Le Guennec, who is in his late seventies, claimed that Picasso had presented him with the artworks towards the end of his life to reward him for his loyal service.
But he later changed his account, telling the appeal court that the works were part of a huge trove of art that Picasso's widow Jacqueline asked him to conceal after the artist's death in 1973.
Le Guennec said he stored more than a dozen garbage bags of unsigned works which Jacqueline later retrieved, except for one which she left him saying: "Keep this, it's for you."
The affair came to light when Pierre Le Guennec attempted to get the works authenticated by Picasso's son Claude Ruiz-Picasso in 2010.
The artist's heirs promptly filed a complaint against him, triggering an investigation.