Painting Withdrawn from Sotheby’s London Auction After Russians Claim Theft

Sotheby's said the painting was not on any list of stolen works.

Auctioneer Oliver Barker at the rostrom. Photo courtesy of Sotheby's.

Sotheby’s London has withdrawn Ivan Aivazovsky’s painting An Evening in Cairo (1870) from sale, following a request from Russia’s Ministry of Internal Affairs claiming the painting was stolen from a private collection in 1997, Reuters reports.

Living between 1817 and 1900, Aivazovsky was a renowned Romantic Russian-Armenian artist, celebrated for his land and seascapes.

Ivan AivazovskyEvening-in-Cairo(1870) Photo via: Russian Art Week

Ivan Aivazovsky Evening in Cairo (1870)
Photo via: Russian Art Week

Valued at £1.5-2 million (around $2-$3 million), the painting was listed on the Sotheby’s website as part of a collection of Russian pictures that went under the hammer on June 2. Yet, when the sale came to its attention, the Russian ministry requested that British police block the auction.

On Sunday May 31 Sotheby’s released the following statement:

During Sotheby’s due diligence prior to including Aivazovsky’s Evening in Cairo lot 23 in our upcoming 2 June 2015 sale of Russian Pictures, Sotheby’s determined that the painting is not mentioned in the database of stolen cultural objects distributed by the Russian Ministry of Culture or in the database of the Art Loss Register. As part of our due diligence, Sotheby’s contacted the Moscow police who confirmed in November 2014 that they have no information that the painting in Sotheby’s sale is the allegedly stolen painting, or that the allegedly stolen painting was an original work by Aivazovsky or in the victim’s possession at the time.

However, the painting was withdrawn by the seller on the day of the auction, with Sotheby’s releasing a short statement announcing: “Ivan Aivazovsky’s Evening in Cairo, Lot 23, in Sotheby’s 2 June 2015 Sale of Russian Pictures has been withdrawn at the request of the consignor.”

Ivan_Constantinovich_Aivazovsky_-_Lake_Maggiore_in_the_Evening

Ivan Aivazovsky Lake Maggiore in the Evening (1892)
Photo via: wikipedia

Sotheby’s had previously identified the complainants as the Nosenko family who, according to Russian media, bought the painting in the 1940s.

The provenance of the painting was listed on the Sotheby’s website as coming from the collection of N.I. Dedov. Sotheby’s protected the identity of the consignor, but the auction house confirmed that An Evening in Cairo was purchased in good faith in 2000.

Sotheby’s confirmed the story this morning, when contacted by artnet News, but added no further comments.


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