Wednesday, May 31, 2023 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Mass. Appeals Court Sides|With Family on Portrait

(CN) - A stolen painting that was recovered 30 years later rightfully belongs to the family from whom it was robbed, not to the insurance company that reimbursed the family for its loss, the Massachusetts Court of Appeals ruled.

In 1765, Angelica Kaufman painted a portrait of John Apthorp and his daughters in Italy.

Three centuries later, that painting was stolen from the home of Helen Thompson, a descendant of Apthorp.

The painting was recovered in 2007 through the use of an international database for missing art. OneBeacon Insurance Group claimed the painting because it had reimbursed Thompson for her loss in 1976.

Thompson had died when the painting was recovered, but William Apthorp, the executor of her estate, sued OneBeacon for possession of the painting.

Although OneBeacon had reimbursed Thompson $25,000 for the painting in 1976, the company believed in 2007 that the painting's value was between $400,000 and $800,000.

The trial court ruled that if Apthorp returned the $25,000 to OneBeacon, he was entitled to the painting.

Justice Cynthia Cohen of the Massachusetts Courts of Appeal affirmed the decision.

"Because the agreement ... conferred only a right of subrogation, the insurer did not acquire ownership, which remained in Thompson and her estate," Cohen wrote.

Read the Top 8

Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.