Stolen Gauguin Was on Factory Worker's Wall for Decades

He didn't realize it until son saw it in a book

By John Johnson,  Newser Staff

Posted Apr 2, 2014 12:55 PM CDT

(Newser) – They looked like nice enough paintings, so a factory worker in Italy shelled out $30 back in 1975 for the two works at a public auction. They'd been abandoned on a train, after all, so they couldn't be that valuable, right? Wrong, reports the BBC. The Fiat worker inadvertently bought a Paul Gauguin titled Fruits sur une Table ou Nature au Petit Chien (Fruits on a Table or Still Life with a Small Dog) that is worth somewhere between $13 million and $42 million today, along with a Pierre Bonnard titled La Femme aux Deux Fauteuils (Woman with Two Armchairs) valued at around $827,000.

The paintings had been stolen in London, but the best guess is that the thieves abandoned them on a train in Italy because of a looming border check, reports the Guardian. The paintings then got tucked away in lost and found before going up for auction. The unidentified buyer had them both hanging in his house for all these years, until his son stumbled across an image of the Gauguin in a book and thought it looked strangely familiar. They called in police, who did some sleuthing and unraveled the story. Authorities are now trying to figure out who should get the paintings—and the factory worker is hopeful because the original couple they were stolen from seems to have died without heirs, reports CNN.

A Paul Gauguin still life recovered by authorities is shown during a press conference in Rome.
A Paul Gauguin still life recovered by authorities is shown during a press conference in Rome.   (AP Photo/Daniele Leone, Lapresse)
A police officer stands by a Paul Gauguin still life recovered by authorities.
A police officer stands by a Paul Gauguin still life recovered by authorities.   (AP Photo/Daniele Leone, Lapresse)
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