"The biggest case of stolen art in South Carolina history" has been solved, at least partially, some 13 years after the art went missing from Hobcaw Barony. That's the name of the estate that belonged to Belle Baruch, an equestrian and horse breeder so known for her skills in the early 20th century that "Hitler and Mussolini wanted her horse," Converse College Prof. Frazer Pajak tells Fox News. She died in 1964, leaving behind an art collection comprised of works by John James Audubon and British impressionist Sir Alfred Munnings, who had been commissioned to paint Baruch astride her horse, Souriant III. But in July 2003, 17 of these works vanished. Though police had a suspect—former curator Samuel McIntosh—and other missing items were reclaimed from his home, the art was nowhere to be found. Then, on April 27, a phone call.
"I think we have your paintings." So heard George Chastain, the executive director of the foundation that oversees Hobcaw Barony. The caller, Ivy Auctions owners John Ivy, had 11 works on his hands that came to him via a recently passed "hoarder” in Columbia, reports the Post and Courier. Ivy brought Pajak in to authenticate the art, as is customary, and he became "extremely excited," says Ivy, after realizing what they were. Ivy says the family that had been in possession of the work was unaware of its true ownership; how they got the works and where the other six are remain unknown. Chastain says a handful of the Audubon prints "suffered ... in hiding," but three Munnings paintings are in better condition. Among them: The portrait of Baruch on Souriant III, valued at more than $1 million and featured on a 2013 episode of Antiques Roadshow after it went missing, reports South Strand News. (Read more art theft stories.)