In December 2000, just before Christmas, eight valuable paintings were stolen from a quiet residence in Denmark. The theft was reported to the Danish police, who were unable to locate the thief or the stolen paintings. As a result, an insurance company paid out on the loss and registered the paintings on the Art Loss Register
s (ALR) database of lost and stolen art.
Last autumn, one of the stolen paintings re-surfaced at a US auction house. It was an enigmatic portrait by the Danish painter Carl Holsøe of a young lady sitting in a room, lost in her book (pictured). The stolen painting had made its way across the Atlantic, where the ALR located it whilst carrying out a routine search of a catalogue as part of the auction houses long-standing commitment to due diligence. The ALR immediately informed the auction house, the insurer and the Danish police of their discovery.
After further investigation, it emerged that the consignor to the US sale had recently acquired the painting from a local Danish auction house, which was located just an hours drive from the place of theft.
The ALR liaised with the Danish police who obtained a warrant to search the residence of the consignor to the Danish auction house from which the consignor in the US had purchased it. The police were astonished to discover the other seven paintings from the theft still stashed inside the suspects house. The paintings had been hidden for sixteen years just 50 miles away from their original home. The police seized the paintings and promptly returned them to the insurer as the rightful owner.
The Carl Holsøe painting which the ALR had discovered remained in the US auction. The ALR negotiated its sale for the benefit of the insurer.