Chris Marinello Is the Sherlock Holmes of Art Crime

Chris Marinello in front of Henri Matisse’s Woman in Blue in Front of a Fireplace, stolen from Paul Rosenberg by Nazis but now returned to his heirs by a Norwegian museum thanks to Marinello's intervention. Photo: Christopher Marinello.

A 52-year-old Brooklyn-born attorney who has recovered $350 million in stolen art over the past two decades is being called the Sherlock Holmes of art crime in a profile from Vocative. The founder of London’s Art Recovery International, Christopher Marinello is considered one the world’s leading restitution experts and art recovery, helping to solve both modern-day heists and World War II-era art-looting perpetrated by the Nazis.

This year, Marinello figured in the high-profile case of Cornelius Gurlitt’s Munich art trove, representing the heirs of French art dealer and collector Paul Rosenberg. One of Gurlitt’s paintings, Henri Matisse’s Seated Woman/Woman Sitting in Armchair (1921), was ruled to be the rightful property of Rosenberg’s descendants (see “Matisse From Gurlitt Trove Once Belonged to Paul Rosenberg“). The work is just one of five or six works by Matisse that Marinello has helped recover over the years, including Woman in Blue in Front of a Fireplace, which was also stolen from Rosenberg.

Among Marinello’s many other successes is the recovery of an Anto Carte portrait of a young girl stolen by Nazis. Remarkably, thanks to a sting operation with the FBI, Marinello was able to personally return the piece to the child in the painting, now an old woman in Belgium. In Prague, Art Recovery International was able to find a photograph stolen from a museum and have it back on display within two weeks.

In the case of Woman in Blue, discovered in a Norwegian museum, Marienello told Vocative that he warned the country there would be a great deal of negative publicity if the government were to claim that Norwegian law allowed them to keep a Nazi-looted painting from a family. He takes pride in his ability to resolve such cases. “In many cases, especially with victims of the Holocaust, they’re not just possessions,” Marinello said. “They are symbols of the loss suffered by their family at the hands of the Nazis. They’re getting a little piece of their lives back that was taken away from them in a very brutal way.”

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