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Heartwarming Secret Masterpiece Narrative Takes Tragic Turn, Fine Turn

Bonnard self-portrait. COURTESY WIKIPEDIA

Bonnard self-portrait.

COURTESY WIKIPEDIA

Georgina Adam’s Financial Times column today opens with the story of a “retired Italian factory worker” who bought two paintings for £20 in 1975 that turned out to be by Paul Gauguin and Pierre Bonnard.

Fantastic, right? No. Because:

When a friend of the pensioner tried to sell the paintings last year, it emerged how valuable they were — but also that they had been stolen from the London home of a Marks and Spencer heiress in 1961.

(Most likely through a service like the Art Loss Register or its newer competitor Art Recovery International.)

But then!

The rediscovery made headlines worldwide when the Italian authorities pronounced the Italian pensioner to be the rightful owner.

Phew.

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