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25-year-old Swedish art heist solved?

January 08, 2013|By Deborah Vankin
  • Matisse's stolen "Le Jardin", an oil on canvas from 1920, was retrieved in London on Jan. 3 and returned to the Museum of Modern Art in Stockholm.
Matisse's stolen "Le Jardin", an oil on canvas from 1920,… (Jeremy Young / AFP / Getty…)

Art thieves, beware: Savvy U.K. art sleuth Christopher Marinello is hot on your trail.

Marinello recently recovered a stolen Impressionist painting -- "Le Jardin" by French artist Matisse -- which is valued at nearly $1 million, Reuters reported on Monday. The painting was stolen from Stockholm’s Moderna Museet in 1987 when, in the middle of the night, thieves hacked their way into the museum with a sledgehammer.  It was retrieved in London on Thursday.

At the time, the robbery was reported to the Art Loss Register, the world's largest international private database of stolen and missing artwork, as well as to the international police organization Interpol. But to no avail -- the thieves got away with the famed painting.

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Twenty-five years later, a British art dealer -- hoping to sell the Matisse on behalf of an elderly client of Polish descent -- checked with the register to make sure all was kosher. That led to its recovery -- though Marinello, an art recovery specialist in London for the register, wouldn’t reveal any additional details.

However, Marinello did say that art thievery is on the rise because of the current global economy; so the Stockholm museum is especially grateful for the return of its treasure.

"It is fantastic that the painting has turned up again," said Kristin Ek, spokeswoman for the museum. "It was stolen so long ago that really we had almost given up hope."

"No arms were broken and no payments were made," Marinello added. 

The painting, an oil on canvas from 1920, was returned to the museum through Sweden's ministry of culture.

The Moderna Museet is still missing a painting, stolen in 1993, by French painter and sculptor Georges Braque. But that makes the return of Matisse’s "Le Jardin" that much sweeter.

"We are happy the painting seems to be OK and in good condition," Ek said. "It was a good start to the New Year."

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Twitter.com/@debvankin

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