An Henri Matisse oil painting snatched from a Swedish museum 25 years ago has been recovered with the help of the Art Loss Registry.


In May 1987, a burglar armed with a sledgehammer broke into Sweden's Moderna Museet and stole the Henri Matisse painting Le Jardin. In December, a British art dealer was approached to broker its sale and contacted the Art Loss Registry, which has now negotiated the work's return. (Art Loss Registry)

Le Jardin, an impressionist Matisse painting valued at about $902,000 (6 million Swedish crowns), has been recovered in London by Christopher Marinello, executive director of the international database tracking stolen, missing and looted artworks.

"It is fantastic that the painting has turned up again," said Kristin Ek, spokeswoman for the Moderna Museet in Stockholm, told Reuters.

"It was stolen so long ago that really we had almost given up hope."

In May 1987, a burglar armed with a sledgehammer broke into the Moderna Museet and stole Le Jardin, escaping mere minutes before security arrived on scene. The shocking theft — it was the only work taken in the overnight raid — was subsequently registered by both Interpol and the Art Loss Registry.

At the time, then museum director Lars Nittve noted that Le Jardin was too well known to sell on the open market. Though the Moderna Museet reportedly received ransom demands for the painting, officials did not comply and the work's whereabouts remained unknown.

Long-missing work resurfaces

In December, an unnamed Polish collector approached a British art dealer in Essex to broker the sale of the Matisse work. After checking the painting in question against the ALR database, dealer Charles Roberts of Charles Fine Art discovered that the piece had been stolen and contacted officials.

London-based Marinello, a lawyer as well as an art recovery expert, then negotiated the return of the work.

"No arms were broken and no payments were made," Marinello said in interviews, adding that he doesn't believe the Polish art collector was involved in the original theft.

Le Jardin, which is technically owned by the Swedish government, is now in the process of being returned to the Moderna Museet through Sweden's ministry of culture.