A Marc Chagall painting was recovered nearly 30 years after it was stolen from an Upper East Side home.
The painting was recovered last year from a man in Maryland who had contacted the FBI’s Washington office after a suspicious local gallery owner, who declined to buy the Chagall due to its lack of documentation, suggested he reach out to law enforcement. The FBI’s art crime team determined it was a painting stolen from the elderly couple Ernest and Rose Heller, now deceased, by someone who worked in their apartment building and stole from tenants when they were away. The Maryland man who contacted the authorities had originally met with the thief to help sell the painting, but the deal fell apart and the Maryland man retained the painting and kept it in a homemade wooden box in his attic, labeled “Misc. High School artwork.” The Heller estate plans to auction the work, with proceeds from the sale going to reimburse the insurance company that had paid the theft claim, and to several non-profit organizations, including an artists’ colony in New Hampshire.