30 year Duccio title dispute resolved

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Detail of Duccio's Madonna and Child

A 30 year title dispute over a Duccio de Buoninsegna painting taken from a bank vault has finally been settled.

The US District Court, Southern District of New York, has settled the dispute between which involved individuals in the UK, Monaco, Switzerland, France and the US.

Buoninsegna’s Madonna and Child painting was bought in 1977 by two London art dealers. They funded it by splitting ownership amongst several individuals. In 1986 one of the part owners of the painting, took it from a Swiss bank vault where it was being stored. The other owners reported this as a theft.

The painting disappeared until January 2014 when it was consigned to auction at Sotheby’s New York. The work was set to appear in the Old Masters Paintings and sculpture sale.

Must read: Art Recovery Group tracking stolen art

Art Recovery Group’s ArtClaim database flagged the work up because it had been registered with them as stolen. The match was confirmed and law enforcement agencies were told. Interpol’s became involved and in June 2014 the painting was seized by the US District Attorney.

Art Recovery International represented two of the original owners of the painting. They retained Galluzzo & Amineddoleh, a New York law firm, to negotiate the entire case right through to achieving a settlement with the government. Several of the owners had died which complicated negotiations.

Leila Amineddoleh, founding partner of Galluzzo & Amineddoleh LLP, said this is a welcome outcome. “It is very rare that a work of art that has been missing for over 30-years is recovered. Usually when a stolen artwork goes underground for over a decade, the rightful owners don’t see its return due to lack of evidence, statutes of limitations issues, or the failure to pursue claims by the owners or their heirs.”

“We are very pleased that our firm was successful in securing our clients entire rightful share of this extraordinary painting in the settlement. Art theft is a very controversial topic – whether it’s regarding Nazi looted art or the Greek Marbles – justice must prevail.” added David Galluzzo, founding partner of Galluzzo & Amineddoleh LLP

This is the first match made by the newly launched ArtClaim database. Chris Marinello the Art Recovery Group says “These cases always demonstrate that recording thefts, and other title disputes on a database like ours can eventually bring some measure of justice to the victims of art crime.”

Previously the work was estimated to sell for $800,000 (£530,000). The end of the dispute means that the painting can now be sold with clear title.