JON White, the antiques dealer who runs Old Bank Antiques in Royal Wootton Bassett, is appealing for help in tracing the legitimate owner of a valuable picture brought into his Wiltshire centre.
The picture was brought in by a woman from Wiltshire, who does not wish to be named, as she wanted to sell it, alongside other items from her late father’s estate. Her father bought the picture in good faith from a flea market in London some years ago.
“The signed picture looked special and I felt it was worth doing some research on it,” Jon said. “Clearly we wanted to offer the customer a fair price so needed to spend some time finding out a little more about it and the artist who created it.”
That research has now revealed a mystery – the picture by French artist Eugene Boudin (1824 to 1898) was one of two stolen from a London art gallery in Mayfair in May of 1990. The image ‘Trouville – Scene de Plage’ is typical of his work as he specialised in oil paintings of landscapes, specially harbours and beaches of Northern France.
Boudin was born in Honfleur, brought up around Le Havre and then later studied at the Louvre. He became well known for his small landscape paintings in oils and also worked alongside Claude-Oscar Monet later in his career. In the past, examples of his work have sold for upwards of £1 million though the market has softened in recent years.
Jon White started his research by contacting the Richard Green Gallery in Mayfair which was the last legitimate business known to have handled the painting.
“It was here that I was told that this painting had been subject to an insurance claim and I needed to seek further details,” Jon said.
Jon then contacted the Art Loss Register which is the world’s largest private database of stolen art, antiques and collectibles. If a painting is registered as stolen, and this is not resolved satisfactorily, then a ‘block’ is put upon the work which cannot then be re-sold.
This threw up a little more information. On May 8 1990 someone walked in off the street into a London gallery and walked out with this painting and it’s not been seen since. An insurance claim was made and a reward for £40,000 was put up in June 1990 – it’s unclear if that reward was ever claimed. Today the Art Loss Register has been unable to trace the company which paid out on that insurance claim.
“It’s clear our customer’s father bought this picture in good faith. I’m appealing to anyone who can help to trace the previous legitimate owner, or trace the insurance company so that we can return the painting and resolve this for all concerned,” he said.
Old Bank Antiques is a small antiques centre selling portable antiques including jewellery, silver flatware, coins, toys and collectibles. The business is in the early stages of expansion to create an auction house next door which, it’s hoped will open for its first sale in mid 2022.
Anyone with information about the Eugene Boudin painting and its mystery owner please firstname.lastname@example.org