MANHATTAN (CN) – Italian master Duccio de Buoninsegna’s depiction of “Madonna and Child” can be sold with a clear title now that U.S. prosecutors have resolved three decades of legal wrangling in five separate countries.
Described as a “Florentine painter within the ambit of Cimabue,” Duccio painted his Madonna in the waning years of the 13th century. The painting’s aesthetic has come to be viewed as a bridge between the iconography of that period and the emerging realism of the Renaissance.
In 1977, the canvas caught the eye of two London art dealers who split the sale with several other buyers.
One of these parties allegedly stole the work in 1986, from a bank vault that they shared in Geneva, Switzerland.
The fight to recover the painting jostled at least four European judiciaries: United Kingdom, Monaco, Switzerland and France, representatives for two of the owners say.
The litigation expanded across the pond last year when the painting turned up at Sotheby’s, where it had been consigned for an “Old Masters” auction.
Representing two of the painting’s owners, Art Recovery International set its estimated value at the time at $800,000.
Federal prosecutors in New York stopped that sale before quickly resolving a forfeiture action through a settlement on Tuesday.
From there, the mystery of the stolen painting soon came to an end, Art Recovery International said.
“The resolution process was slowed considerably because many of the original owners and the thief were deceased at the time the work was identified,” the group said in a statement. “It is thought that Sotheby’s consignor, since identified as the thief’s widow, was looking to take advantage of the passage of time in order to avoid the scrutiny of her late husband’s former partners.”
Art Recovery’s chief executive Christopher Marinello called the case’s resolution significant for his company’s database.
“This was a particularly important case for us as it was the first match made by the ArtClaim Database,” he said in a statement. “These cases always demonstrate that recording thefts and other title disputes on a database like ours can eventually bring some measure of justice to the victims of art crime.”
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