Twenty five million pounds worth of stolen London art by Paul Gauguin and Pierre Bonnard has been recovered, after hanging on the wall of an Italian Fiat factory worker for nearly 40 years. The masterpieces were revealed in a press conference after police were contacted by the owner’s son who consulted experts, when he saw a similar painting by Gauguin in a book. Mariano Mossa, commander of Italy’s heritage police, said he believed the paintings had been discarded on a train travelling from Paris to Turin after they were stolen. “They were bought by an art-loving worker, who hung them for 40 years in his kitchen, first in Turin then in Sicily, after he retired”.
The paintings were stolen from a London’s Regents Park home in 1970 by thieves posing as burglar alarm maintenance men, who entered the house and asked the housekeeper to make them a cup of tea. The robbers removed the canvases from the frames in a professional manner before fleeing. The masterpieces were later found abandoned on a train in Turin Italy. The works wound up in a railway lost-property auction, where they were purchased by the present owner for around £20.
Italian culture minister Dario Franceschini said: “It’s an incredible story, an amazing recovery. A symbol of all the work which Italian art police have put in over the years behind the scenes.”
The current owner of the paintings said,”As a simple factory worker, I am proud of having been able to appreciate and buy two masterpieces even though I did not know what they were,” the 70-year-old Italian man stated in La Stampa one of Italy’s leading dailies. “What makes me most happy is having had the pleasure of living with them for so long,” the pensioner, who said he wished to remain anonymous out of concern “because of the amount of money involved”, he added.
The Gauguin oil on canvas, titled ‘Fruits sur une table ou nature au petit chien’ (Fruits on a table or still life with a small dog), was created in 1889. The Bonnard, ‘La femme aux deux fauteuils’ Woman with two armchairs are both considered museum quality and will have increased in value collectively by millions. Under Italian law the former Fiat worker, who wishes to remain anonymous will be allowed to keep the paintings, if he can prove that they were bought in good faith.