The Irish Mail on Sunday
Insurance company owns ‘returned’ stolen painting
THE fate of a stolen painting returned to Dublin’s Hugh Lane Gallery this week remains in doubt after it emerged the piece is owned by an insurance company.
In The Omnibus, by French artist Honoré Daumier, was stolen from the gallery in 1992.
The painting was valued at €250,000 at the time and the gallery’s insurance company paid out following the theft.
This week, the painting was returned to the gallery after being recovered by the Criminal Assets Bureau during an investigation last year.
Based on other work by the artist, experts estimate that it could now be worth up to €1m
Now it has emerged that the painting – which went on display once more this week – is owned by an insurance firm and Dublin City Council, which owns the gallery, may not have the funds to buy it back.
Councillors were informed of the painting’s status this week.
A spokesman said: ‘Effectively the insurers now own the painting. Dublin City Council will not be in a position to purchase it back if there is any significant cost involved but the insurers may be prepared to donate it to the gallery or leave it on loan.’
The council said that Marsh Insurance paid out at the time of the theft, although it is understood the company has changed ownership since then.
It remains unclear how much the council would be required to pay to buy the piece back. They could be asked to hand over the €250,000, which was paid out 22 years ago, or the current market value.
Ian Whyte, of Whyte’s auction house, said the painting could be worth up to €1m.
Independent councillor Mannix Flynn said: ‘I think it would be appropriate for the insurance company to donate the piece to the gallery.’
Dr Barbara Dawson, director of the gallery, could not be contacted for comment.