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Library Says Missing Painting Was Stolen

MANHATTAN (CN) - A famous painting that mysteriously disappeared from the American Hungarian Library in 1992 was stolen and then put up for auction, the library claims in court.

The Jan. 8 lawsuit in New York County Supreme Court claims that "Merrymaking at the Village Market" by Vilmos Aba-Novak - which had disappeared from the library's Upper East Side Hungarian House - had been in now-deceased restaurateur Mario Sirabella's possession.

Aba-Novak is considered one of Hungary's most prominent painters, known for an interest in painting circuses and public fairs. The "Merrymaking" painting had been confiscated during World War Two and the library acquired it in the 1950s. It displayed it prominently in its main hall until it disappeared in 1992.

The American Hungarian Library and Historical Society bills itself as a "hub of literary, cultural, and social life for the Tri-State area's Hungarian-American community since 1955." It also owns an extensive collection of books and paintings by Hungarians.

The library claims that last year it discovered that Sirabella, who died in 2014, had the painting. After he died, Sirabella's estate advertised the painting during an estate auction in New Jersey. The estate has refused to return the painting, the library says.

James Nemia, an attorney at The Mandel Law Firm representing the Sirabella estate, declined to comment on the lawsuit.

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