Stolen $1m Henri Matisse recovered

Le Jardin by Matisse Le Jardin was painted by the impressionist painter Matisse in 1920

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A stolen Henri Matisse painting, valued at $1m (£620,000), has been found by an art recovery specialist in London.

Le Jardin, or The Garden, was taken from the Museum of Modern Art in Stockholm during a robbery in the early hours of 11 May, 1987.

According to reports at the time, attempts were made to sell it back to the museum for exorbitant sums.

The recovery came after an art dealer in Essex was offered the painting by a Polish collector just before Christmas.

Before handling the work, Charles Roberts, of Charles Fine Art, made a search of the Art Loss Register (ALR), a database of stolen, missing and looted artwork.

Once the match was confirmed, the recovery was handed to ALR director Christopher Marinello, who successfully negotiated the return of the painting, after convincing the individual concerned to release it to the UK.

"No payments were made, no arms were broken," Mr Marinello told the BBC.

Henri Matisse

Henri Matisse
  • Born in France, Henri Matisse initially trained by drawing Greek and Roman statues, but changed his style after being introduced to Impressionism
  • He was a close friend and rival of Picasso and helped form the short-lived Fauvism movement
  • He developed new ways of using colour and depicting the human figure that were instrumental in defining the direction of 20th Century art

Source: BBC Your Paintings

The French Impressionist painting is now being held in a safe. It will be handed to the Swedish Ministry of Culture for its return to Stockholm in the coming weeks.

'No real value'

Matisse's work was the only one taken in the audacious 1987 raid. Burglars broke through the museum's front entrance with a sledgehammer, and unscrewed it from the wall.

They escaped before private guards arrived, 10 minutes after an alarm was triggered, and the whereabouts of the painting have been a mystery ever since.

At the time of the theft, a spokesman for the museum said the painting was too "well-known" to "sell on the open market".

Mr Marinello agreed with the sentiment, adding: "I commend the museum for not giving in to ransom demands a quarter century ago.

"Stolen artwork has no real value in the legitimate marketplace and will eventually resurface... it's just a matter of waiting it out."

He said the ALR would normally receive a small fee from insurers for recovering a stolen painting. However, the Matisse was government-owned and uninsured.

"Let's just say this was a Christmas present for the people of Sweden," said Mr Marinello.

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