Two paintings stolen from a house in London in 1970 by renowned French artists Paul Gauguin and Pierre Bonnard were found hanging on an Italian autoworker’s kitchen wall.
The unnamed Fiat mechanic bought the paintings at an auction for roughly $30 in 1975, not having any idea of their actual worth. The man had hung them in his kitchen in his home in Turin, stating he thought Gaugin’s still life of fruit in bowls complimented the dining area. He then took them to Sicily upon his retirement. A friend eventually grew suspicious of the actual value of the pieces, and alerted the Italian heritage police last summer.
The Gauguin painting, entitled Fruits sur une Table ou Nature au Petit Chien (Fruits on a Table or Still Life with a Small Dog), is thought to have been painted in 1889 and is worth anywhere between $13 million and $41 million. Eugène Henri Paul Gauguin was a leading French Post-Impressionist artist who was recognized for his experimental use of colors, and for a style that was distinctly different from Impressionism. His work was influential to Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse.
The Bonnard painting is titled La Femme aux Deux Fauteuils (“Woman with Two Armchairs”). Pierre Bonnard is regarded as one of the greatest colorists in modern art, especially in areas built with small brush marks and close values. He was known to at times photograph his subjects before painting them, to better asses the color scheme.
Italy’s Culture Ministry unveiled the two paintings Wednesday. The art was allegedly ditched on a Paris-to-Turin train not long after being stolen, and wound up in the Italian Railways lost and found. They eventually were included in a lost-property auction.
During a news conference on the matter, head of the Italian Heritage Police Gen. Mariano Mossa commented, “There are all the elements for a nice novel; it is very unique.”
Since the London couple the paintings were stolen from have since passed away and have no heirs, the art is now locked in a Italian police safe.
Image via YouTube