Two Arrested in Turkey for Allegedly Smuggling $4 Million Van Dyck Canvas

Georgia denies that the painting is linked to its country.

A detail of painting thought to be by Anthony Van Dyck. Photo: Istanbul Police Department Anti-Smuggling and Organized Crime Unit.
A detail of painting thought to be by Anthony Van Dyck. Photo: Istanbul Police Department Anti-Smuggling and Organized Crime Unit.
This painting, thought to be by Anthony Van Dyck, was seized by Turkish authorities in Istanbul. Photo: Istanbul Police Departmetn Anti-Smuggling and Organized Crime Unit.

This painting, thought to be by Anthony van Dyck, was seized by Turkish authorities in Istanbul.
Photo: Istanbul Police Departmetn Anti-Smuggling and Organized Crime Unit.

Two men have been detained in Turkey for allegedly smuggling a painting thought to be by Flemish master Anthony van Dyck, reports Agence France-Presse. Undercover police officers confiscated the canvas from a pair of textile businessmen attempting to sell the work for 14 million lira ($4.6 million).

Hurriyet, an Istanbul-based newpaper, claims that while Turkish authorities have not officially identifying the painting, art experts from the Museum of Painting and Sculpture in Istanbul are confident that the canvas is a long-lost van Dyck masterpiece. If so, it could be worth millions.

Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge, photographed alongside Anthony van Dyck self portrait.

Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge, photographed alongside Anthony van Dyck self portrait. Photo: Jorge Herrera, courtesy National Portrait Gallery.

A leading court painter in his day, van Dyck was knighted by England’s King Charles I. In 2014, the UK completed a successful campaign to save a £12.5 million ($20.8 million) self-portrait by the artist from being sold overseas, but a drawing unearthed on Antiques Roadshow failed to find a buyer at auction.

Interpress News reports that Georgia resident Eka Abashidze has been called in for questioning. She told Georgian media outlet Rustavi 2 that her brother, Giorgi Abashidze, purchased the work for $5,000 15 years earlier “in a shop.” The painting arrived in Georgia, according to reports, via Russia.

When Abashidze got into legal trouble, he reportedly sold it in 2010 to the two textile businessmen, Malkhaz Makharadze and Zahir Huseinov, for $37,000.

A detail of painting thought to be by Anthony Van Dyck. Photo: Istanbul Police Department Anti-Smuggling and Organized Crime Unit.

A detail of painting thought to be by Anthony van Dyck.
Photo: Istanbul Police Department Anti-Smuggling and Organized Crime Unit.

The Abashidzes only ever saw $7,000 from the sale, and reportedly took the buyers to court, according to AFP. Huseinov told Rustavi 2 that “the painting is really ours” and had been stolen by a friend’s son while being stored in Turkey.

So far, the Georgian government denies that the painting is linked to its country. “According to the Interior Ministry’s attache to Turkey, the detained, as well as the seized items, have not been confirmed as having links with Georgia,” said Georgia’s Interior Ministry in a statement, according to Georgia’s Agenda news.


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