Art Market

A Japanese museum is demanding compensation before returning an allegedly stolen painting.

Christy Kuesel
Sep 6, 2019 4:50PM, via The Telegraph

Joshua Reynolds, The portrait of Miss Mathew, later Lady Elizabeth Mathew, sitting with her dog before a landscape, 1780. Courtesy Art Recovery International.

A Japanese museum is refusing to return an allegedly stolen painting to a British family without “just and reasonable compensation.” The painting in question, a Joshua Reynolds portrait of a young girl and her dog, was reportedly taken from the home of late menswear mogul Sir Henry Price and his wife Lady Price in 1984. Art Recovery International (ARI), which tracks missing art, has called on the International Council of Museums (ICOM) to intervene and ask Tokyo’s Fuji Art Museum to return the painting, arguing that the museum is violating ICOM’s Code of Ethics.

Reynolds’s oil-on-canvas Portrait of Miss Mathew, later lady Elizabeth Mathew sitting with her dog before a landscape (1780) is valued at £1 million ($1.2 million). In 1988, the disputed painting was sold at Sotheby’s to a dealer who then sold it to the Fuji Art Museum. Christopher Marinello, head of ARI, said the museum did not conduct due diligence when it purchased the painting in 1990, as it is required to do as a member of ICOM.

An image of the Joshua Reynolds portrait hanging in the home of Sir Henry and Lady Price. Courtesy Art Recovery International.

Tim Radley-Smith, the grandson of Lady Price, said the portrait was his grandmother’s favorite picture. He told The Telegraph:

The fact that she loved it so much means a lot to me. It’s not as if we had an insurance pay out, so why shouldn’t we try and get it back? It was stolen from us. I think anyone would try and get things returned.

A lawyer representing the Fuji Art Museum argued that ARI has not proven that the Prices’ stolen painting and the work in the Japanese museum are the same. Although the museum is willing to discuss the return of the painting with Marinello, it has said it requires compensation. In 2012, the museum returned a 400-year-old stolen copy of a Leonardo da Vinci painting to Italy.

Christy Kuesel
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