Stolen French impressionist paintings found in Italy after 44 years

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ROME – Two French impressionist paintings that were stolen in London in 1970 had been found in Italy after an “incredible” series of events, the Ministry of Culture said on Wednesday.

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Fruit on a Table, or Still Life with a Small Dog, by Paul Gauguin, dating from 1869, and Woman with Two Armchairs, by Pierre Bonnard, painted in 1909, were abandoned after their theft on a train from Paris to Turin.

Without recognising their value, the Italian Railways sold them off at auction along with other unclaimed items from their lost and found office to an “art-loving” Fiat factory worker, who hung them on his kitchen walls for about 40 years, authorities said.

He was said to have paid 45,000 lire for them in 1975, roughly equivalent to 250 euros (345 dollars) in today’s currency.

The art squad of the Carabinieri military police started investigating last summer, when they received pictures of the two artworks.

They convinced the factory worker to hand them over, while their authenticity was being confirmed.

The Gauguin was said to be worth 15 to 35 million euros, while the Bonnard was estimated at around 600,000 euros.

It was still unclear to whom they would be returned to, as the couple they were stolen from had died, apparently leaving no heirs. (dpa/NAN)

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