An Italian factory worker who unknowingly purchased stolen paintings by Paul Gaugin and Pierre Bonnard is hopeful that the two works will be returned to him. Both pieces were stolen from a private home in London in 1970.
A retired Fiat factory worker identified only as “Mr. Niccola” was the winning bidder at a 1970 state auction held after the two works were found abandoned on a train. He paid only 45,000 lira, or about $32 at the time, and has enjoyed the artworks ever since.
Niccola only questioned his paintings’ provenance when he happened upon a book about Bonnard and was struck by how much the artwork resembled one of the two hanging on his kitchen wall. Further research proved Niccola’s hunch to be correct, and he willingly turned the artworks over to the police.
The paintings’ original owners have since died, apparently without heirs. Now, Niccola hopes the two canvases will be returned to him. As he told an italian newspaper, “they were bought in good faith” through a state auction. “The institutions can’t deny this.”
Gauguin’s Fruits sur une table ou nature au petit chien (Fruits on a table or still life with a small dog) (1889) and Bonnard’s La femme aux deux fauteuils (Woman with two armchairs) are said to collectively be worth upwards of €10.6 million.
The recovered works are currently being held by the paramilitary Carabinieri art theft squad.