Art Recovery International
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J. Carroll Beckwith


‘Sleep’ may again find rest in Buffalo Valuable stolen painting recovered in Florida

Feb 4, 2008

A valuable painting stolen from the Buffalo Club in 1995 has been recovered.

“Sleep,” created more than a century ago by J. Carroll Beckwith, was identified last month at a Florida art show by an art historian for a New York City database that has helped locate millions of dollars worth of lost or stolen art.

Arrangements are being made for the oil painting’s return to the club at 388 Delaware Ave., where the theft occurred early on Labor Day weekend 12 1/2 years ago, said Christopher A. Marinello, an attorney acting on behalf of the victim’s insurer.

“You always hear about the Cezannes and Monets, but [the Buffalo robbery] is the most common type of art theft — from smaller museums and clubs,” Marinello said. “These are works worth thousands rather than millions, and sometimes the loss just goes unreported.”

The 13-inch-by-17-inch work, depicting the face of an attractive sleeping woman wearing bright red lipstick, her long, dark hair draped over her shoulders and pillow, was removed from the frame during the heist, according to a Buffalo police report filed afterward.

The painting was insured for $10,000, which the club subsequently received from Travelers Insurance, Marinello said. Club representatives are expected to travel to New York in early March to reimburse Travelers and bring the painting back to Buffalo, he said.

It turned up at the Palm Beach Fine Art & Antique Fair, where art historian Erin Culbreth was on the lookout for ill-gotten goods, Marinello said.

Once Culbreth identified it as the stolen Buffalo work, Anne Moore, the New York dealer who was offering it for sale, “did the magnanimous thing and agreed to return the painting to our office,” Marinello said. Moore delivered it to the register’s Manhattan headquarters Thursday afternoon.

Moore bought the painting for $6,000 from an auction gallery, Doyle New York, “we think in 2005,” Marinello said. Doyle is cooperating in efforts to find out where else the work has been since 1995, an investigation that hopefully will lead back to the thief.

The Buffalo Police Department investigation, which went nowhere in 1995, has been reopened, said Central District Chief Donna Berry.

Beckwith, who painted “Sleep,” was a contemporary and close friend of John Singer Sargent. They shared studio space in Paris in the 1870s as part of a group of American expatriate artists working there.

After returning to the United States, Beckwith became an associate member of the National Academy of Design and taught at Cooper Union. He painted numerous portraits, including one of Mark Twain, and before his death in 1917 lived in Italy, where he painted plein-air studies of monuments, buildings and landscapes.

The Buffalo Club did not return a call seeking comment for this story. Berry said the organization beefed up security after the theft.

The Buffalo News by Janice L. Habuda And Tom Buckham