February 21, 2024

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The Arts Authority

A Former Museum President Tracked Down a Stolen Painting Using an Image Printed on a Decorative Throw Pillow

A Former Museum President Tracked Down a Stolen Painting Using an Image Printed on a Decorative Throw Pillow

The Worcester Artwork Museum is on the verge of recovering a portray nearly 45 many years right after a brazen artwork heist—and it’s all many thanks to an $18 toss pillow.

The theft took put way again in 1978, at the Worcester property of Helen and Robert Stoddard. He was a previous museum trustee who experienced promised to donate substantially of his art collection to the establishment. Under include of night, burglars built off with 12 items now believed to be worthy of $10 million, which includes an Pierre-Auguste Renoir canvas and a J.M.W. Turner watercolor.

One of all those operates, Hendrick Avercamp’s Wintertime Landscape with Skater and Other Figures could before long be on its way back to Massachusetts, courtesy of some amazing on-line sleuthing by Clifford Schorer, the Worcester Artwork Museum’s previous board president, reports Boston magazine.

“The restoration of this portray would be a terrific boon to the Worcester Art Museum. Hendrick Avercamp is just one of the most celebrated artists of the 17th-century Netherlands and the inviting particulars in his winter season scenes are a source of delight for several readers,” Claire C. Whitner, the museum’s director of curatorial affairs and curator of European art informed Artnet News in an e-mail. “I also see the recovery of this painting as obtaining the potential to give a little bit of closure to a really distressing celebration in the Stoddard family’s earlier.”

Pixels.com is selling a merchandise such as this throw pillow featuring Hendrick Avercamp's stolen painting <em>Winter Landscape with Skater and Other Figures</em>.

Pixels.com is selling a products this sort of as this toss pillow showcasing Hendrick Avercamp’s stolen painting Winter season Landscape with Skater and Other Figures.

A basic reverse picture lookup of the 17th-century Dutch master’s winter season scene by Schorer turned up a throw pillow that includes a print of the canvas—but in considerably better fidelity than any recognised photos taken of the get the job done prior to the theft.

And it was not just the pillow. At Pixels.com, which sells goods on demand, you could put the portray, detailed as the function of Barent Avercamp—Hendrick’s nephew and student—on an Iphone case, a canvas tote bag, a puzzle, and even a confront mask, among other solutions.

Schorer is an artwork collector and investor—in 2014, he swooped in to assistance maintain Agnews, the venerable London Old Masters supplier, in business. He’s demonstrated to have an eagle eye right before, productively determining a drawing bought at a Massachusetts estate sale for just $30 as an original Albrecht Dürer—a legitimate rarity. (Agnews showed the get the job done in January at Learn Drawings New York.)

So when he found the Avercamp throw pillow, Schorer dependable his instincts. He downloaded the picture of the painting and found a clue embedded in the metadata. There was the title of an art library, as nicely as a New York artwork seller. He known as the seller, who remembered the portray from a 1995 artwork fair, but explained that a now-defunct gallery had executed the sale.

Soon after four months of investigation, Schorer tracked down the niece of that seller, who in flip dug through the outdated enterprise data to identify the prospective buyers. Schorer estimates it price much less than $200,000—a cut price considering that Avercamp’s auction document is $8.6 million, in accordance to the Artnet Value Database.

Somewhere along the way, it appears somebody had altered the painting’s signature to examine “B. Avercamp” as an alternative of “H. Avercamp,” producing it simpler to shift the stolen do the job on the open sector. Barent’s top rated cost at auction is just £378,000 ($460,919).

Camille Pissarro, <em>Bassins Duquesne et Berrigny a Dieppe, Temps Gris</em> (1902). Collection of the Worcester Museum of Art.

Camille Pissarro, Bassins Duquesne et Berrigny a Dieppe, Temps Gris (1902). Selection of the Worcester Museum of Art.

The owners, a Dutch few, experienced due to the fact died, so Schorer sent a letter to their heirs on behalf of the museum in 2021, seeking to make arrangements for the work’s return. They hardly ever responded.

This thirty day period, Schorer experienced a Dutch lawyer achieve out, with a warning that following 40 days, the museum would instigate a felony case in the Netherlands. He’s hopeful that the painting’s restoration is now near at hand.

Only 3 of the Stoddards’ functions have been discovered to date. The most significant was Camille Pissarro’s Bassins Duquesne et Berrigny a Dieppe, Temps Gris, which turned up at Wolfs auction household in Cleveland in 1998, not extensive before Helen Stoddard’s demise. There was a challenging legal dispute, but Helen prevailed, and the painting entered the museum selection to substantially fanfare.

 

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