Edouard-Leon Cortés picture

The recovered Edouard-Leon Cortés Flower Market Madeleine.

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Flower Market Madeleine by Cortés has been recovered with the help of Christopher Marinello, lawyer and founder of Art Recovery International.

The picture was one of up to 3000 paintings stolen from the Herbert Arnot Gallery in New York City over a 12-year period in the 1950s and 1960s by an employee. A subsequent court case led to the imprisonment of the offender but many of the artworks were not recovered.

Then earlier this year it emerged that Cortès’ Flower Market Madeleine was offered for sale by Lancashire art dealer Carnes Fine Art.

According to Art Recovery International, Carnes purchased the artwork in November 2022 at Capes Dunn auction house. The painting had been consigned to Capes Dunn in 2022 from an estate in Cheshire who confirmed that it was acquired from a London gallery.

Due diligence 

Marinello said: “We are very grateful to Bradley Carnes, Capes Dunn and their vendor for releasing this stolen painting unconditionally to the Arnot Gallery. While in this instance, we were able to convince many of the parties to reimburse the other, eventually there will be those who are out of luck. 

“I cannot stress enough the importance of performing due diligence and authentication checks which would have uncovered this stolen painting decades earlier.”

Marinello added: “Anyone buying or selling a painting by Edouard-Leon Cortés or Antoine Blanchard is advised to check with the Arnot Gallery for proper authentication.

“We have been recovering one or two pictures per year from this 60-year-old theft and we’re never going to give up until every last one is returned.”

Under US law, even the defence of a ‘good faith purchase’ (ie the buyer did not know the item was stolen in the past) may not be enough. In contrast, in the UK the Limitation Act 1980 means that after six years from the date of the ‘good faith purchase’ the original owner may not have a claim. However, it is not clear cut.

Read more about this issue in ATG's legal column.