The Houston Chronicle tells the story of local force of nature, Joanne King Herring–who was made semi-famous by the book and movie Charlie Wilson’s War–and her fight to regain a Raeburn portrait valued at $15-20k that was stolen from her 20 years ago. The work turned up in a Sotheby’s sale where the auction house found it was included in the Art Loss Register. The consignor refuses to give up title even after he was approached by the Art Loss Register’s Chris Marinello who says he found Rice “vociferous and adamant:”
Herring, however, has a Christie’s auction catalog and receipt showing she bought the painting in 1980 — along with a 1986 police report filed when it disappeared from a framing shop.
Geoffrey Rice, who consigned the painting to Sotheby’s, has produced no evidence he ever bought it, she said, but because he refuses to cede ownership, the auction house can’t release it to Herring without a civil court order. So she’s filed suit to get one.
“He has no proof, and I have all the proof,” Herring said late Friday. “I’ve never heard of anything like this. I wouldn’t any more press a case if I didn’t have a bill of sale than fly to the moon.” […] In an e-mail exchange last month with the Houston Chronicle, Rice wrote that he bought the painting at Hart Galleries, the now-defunct Houston auction house, in late 1984 or 1985, but declined to say whether he had proof of purchase. Owners Jerry and Wynonne Hart signed an affidavit in October stating that “at no time did Hart Galleries ever auction or otherwise sell this picture.” They added that they had no record of ever selling anything to Rice,
18th-century painting’s strange legal limbo (Houston Chronicle)