Published: January 14, 2020
DULUTH, MINN. – A Harry Chase (1853-1889) oil on board depicting a ship on stormy waters has made safe harbor, returned to its rightful owner after having been reported stolen from a private residence in July 2013.
The Duluth Police Department investigated the reported theft of the painting on July 21, 2013, according to a police report. An officer was dispatched to the residence, where he was advised by the homeowner and his brother that they suspected an estranged brother had entered the house while they were away, gaining entry with a key that was in his possession from the time the house was their mother’s. The two brothers reporting the theft believed that the estranged brother was upset about the inheritance being divided at the time of their mother’s death and took the painting, which had been unofficially appraised for more than $40,000. Investigators were unable to locate and make contact with the suspect, and the case was closed.
Fast-forward to 2019 when a St Paul auction house happened to offer the painting at auction. The person who purchased the painting at auction did some research and discovered it was stolen through an article he found. The buyer contacted the auction house, which prefers to remain unidentified due to legal concerns. It did the right thing, however, and contacted the Duluth Police Department. “One of our evidence technicians was able to contact the original owner, who then had a family member pick it up,” said Lynn Rosandich of the Duluth Police Department.
Happy ending, right? No, instead of expressing gratitude at the return of the 40½-by-30¾-inch painting that had sold at auction for $2,800 on nine bids, the owner proved to be irascible, threatening to sue the auction house.
“It’s a nutty business,” said Anton Bogdanov, an appraiser and senior content editor at the online auction platform Everything But The House. “It seems like the auction acted in good faith here. Some auction houses would opt to offload problem property back onto the consignor rather than contacting authorities.”
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