Stolen Painting Returned to Chatsworth House After More Than 40 Years

Stollen Painting Returned to Chatsworth House

“A Double Portrait of Sir Peter Paul Rubens and Sir Anthony Van Dyck,” by Eramus Quelliness II, circa 1640s. (Photo: Chatsworth House Trust)

Sometimes things turn up when you least expect them to. Such is true in the art world too, where pieces once feared to be lost to time or theft can reappear in unlikely places. Charles Darwin's notebooks returned themselves to Cambridge University, while the FBI recovered a stolen painting with mobster ties. Other works—looted or lost—have reemerged over the years and been returned to their rightful owners. A recent announcement that Chatsworth House, the stately historic home of the Duke of Devonshire in England, celebrated the return of a 17th-century painting that was dramatically stolen in 1979, only to turn up in a French auction house more than 40 years later.

The painting is small and monochromatic, featuring two men's portraits enshrined in decorative frames. Painted in the 1640s, it is entitled A Double Portrait of Sir Peter Paul Rubens and Sir Anthony Van Dyck. The likeness of these famous artists was captured by Eramus Quelliness II, a Flemish painter and engraver who trained with Rubens. The work was a study from which he planned to engrave. Due to its famous subjects, the work was loaned in 1979 by its owner, Chatsworth House, to the Towner Art Gallery for their Anthony Van Dyck exhibit. While on loan, thieves broke into the gallery and made off with the painting, ironically leaving much more expensive artwork behind. For decades, no one knew what became of the painting.

In 2021, an art historian noticed the work up for auction in Toulon, France. The seller allegedly discovered the work in his deceased parents' home in Eastbourne, England. It remains unclear how the work came to be there. The work required extensive restoration to remediate stains and flaking. However, after negotiations, the painting has at last been returned to Chatsworth House.

Visitors to the magnificent palatial home will be able to view it among the many other treasures of the house, which also hosts free events for the community. The house is managed by the Chatsworth House Trust.

A 17th-century painting by a Flemish artist was stollen in 1979, only to mysteriously reappear in 2021 in France.

Stollen Painting Returned to Chatsworth House

Chatsworth House, the magnificent historic seat of the Duke of Devonshire. (Photo: Trevor Rickard
via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 2.0 DEED)

h/t: [ARTnews]

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Madeleine Muzdakis

Madeleine Muzdakis is a Contributing Writer at My Modern Met and a historian of early modern Britain & the Atlantic world. She holds a BA in History and Mathematics from Brown University and an MA in European & Russian Studies from Yale University. Madeleine has worked in archives and museums for years with a particular focus on photography and arts education. When she isn’t writing, she enjoys hiking, film photography, and studying law while cuddling with her cat Georgia.
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