The Japan Times says a Tokyo resident now realizes that his stolen Renoir was among the lots at Sotheby’s in February even though the work was never registered in a way that would have allowed Sotheby’s to discover it was stolen before passing through the auction house’s hands:
An oil painting by French impressionist Pierre-Auguste Renoir that was stolen from a private residence in Tokyo in 2000 was auctioned in February at Sotheby’s in London for about £1.05 million ($1.6 million), investigative sources said Monday.
The work, “Madame Valtat,” painted in 1903, is a portrait of Suzanne Valtat, wife of Renoir’s close friend and painter Louis Valtat.
The male owner of the home in Setagaya Ward discovered the theft of the Renoir and five other pieces, including those by Russian-born French painter Marc Chagall and Japanese artist Ikuo Hirayama, in August 2000, the sources said.
The painting was auctioned off on Feb. 5 in London and the owner, who noticed that the piece had been sold at auction, informed police in Japan in March.