Patient police work seems to have paid off in the case of a 2004 theft of a Juan Gris from the home of a St. Louis man who had bought the painting in the 1960s on a lark while in Spain. The Art Newspaper reports that Robert Dibartolo has been arrested after contacting an undercover FBI agent about selling the painting:
The FBI started investigating the case and then finally in November 2009, Dibartolo spoke to an undercover agent about selling the painting, according to court documents. Just last week, on 11 March, the defendant met with the agent at a hotel in Jupiter, Florida and produced the Gris, wrapped in a blue packing blanket. After the undercover agent determined that the painting was authentic, Dibartolo was taken into custody, and the painting was later identified by its original owner.
The Palm Beach Post reports that the owner, Clifton Hyatt, bought the painting in the mid-1960s from a “striking” Russian woman he met and had a relationship with in Spain, where he was enlisted with the US Air Force. During visits to her home, Hyatt admired the abstract painting but didn’t know anything about the artist. When he left the country, she agreed to sell him the work at what would turn out to be a generous discount. “I didn’t know Juan Gris from Juan Pepe,” he told the Post. “I just rolled the damned thing up and mailed it” to St Louis. A US museum later authenticated the painting as an authentic work by Spanish cubist Juan Gris, a contemporary of Picasso and Braque.
The FBI will retain the painting until the case has been resolved. Hyatt told the Post he then plans to keep the painting in his home, “along with two Rottweilers and a shotgun”.
Stolen Juan Gris Painting Recovered by FBI (The Art Newspaper)