A painting by Sir Joshua Reynolds, stolen from a UK stately home in 1984, has been discovered in the collection of a Japanese museum.
TFAM claims that they acquired the stolen Joshua Reynolds in good faith from a dealer who purchased it at Sotheby’s in 1988
Over thirty-five years ago, the Portrait of Miss Mathew, later Lady Elizabeth Mathew, sitting with her dog before a landscape, by Sir. Joshua Reynolds was stolen from the home of Sir Henry and Lady Price along with numerous other old master paintings and family heirlooms.
The Reynolds painting has now been tracked down to the Tokyo Fuji Art Museum (TFAM) and is being claimed by the experts at Art Recovery International on behalf of the theft victims.
The timing is opportune. This week, the International Council of Museums (ICOM) is holding its 25th General Conference in Kyoto, Japan, designed as a forum for discussions surrounding the role of museums in protecting cultural heritage while dealing with issues of stolen and looted works of art.
Christopher A. Marinello, a lawyer and the CEO of Art Recovery International, is representing the theft victims and is leading a campaign asking ICOM to intervene in the case and demand that its member museum complies with ICOM guidelines.
Christopher A. Marinello said: “The timing of this conference presents ICOM with the perfect chance to demonstrate just how seriously matters of theft will be treated when encountered in its member museums. We call on ICOM to intervene with the Tokyo Fuji Art Museum and ensure a quick resolution of a painful mystery that has caused untold upset in the Price family for more than 30 years. TFAM claims that they acquired the stolen Reynolds in good faith from a dealer who purchased it at Sotheby’s in 1988. However, ICOM guidelines state that member museums must conduct independent provenance research on objects they acquire. A 46-year gap in the provenance should have been a major red flag for any cultural institution.”
The Tokyo Fuji Museum has been embroiled in controversy on several previous occasions since its foundation in 1983. The Museum’s founder, Daisaku Ikeda, is the president of Soka Gakkai, a Buddhist sect with a troubled history, often labelled as a cult. Later, in 2012, the Museum was forced to return a Leonardo da Vinci painting to Italy after officials determined it had been illegally exported in WWII.
The theft of Portrait of Miss Mathew, later Lady Elizabeth Mathew, sitting with her dog before a landscape was reported to the Sussex police in 1984 and publicised in local newspapers at the time. Just four years later, in 1988, the painting was sold at Sotheby’s to a member of the art trade who sold it on to the Tokyo Fuji Art Museum in 1990.