Russia asks Britain to block auction of 'stolen' painting

The Russian bureau of Interpol has sent a request to the British police to block the auction of a painting by a famous Russian artist because it was “stolen”, Russia’s Interior Ministry said in a statement on Saturday.

The ministry said that the painting in question, “Evening in Cairo” by Ivan Aivazovsky, “was stolen in 1997 from a private collection in the city of Moscow”.

The 1870 painting is listed as a lot on the website of auction house Sotheby’s, with an estimated value of 1.5-2 million pounds (around $2-$3 million), as part of a collection of Russian pictures due to be sold on June 2.

“That a painting of this scale and quality has not been on public view for over seventy years is remarkable and presents an exceptional opportunity for collectors of Aivazovsky’s major works,” the Sotheby’s catalog note said.

Sotheby’s told Reuters that it was aware of a claim that the painting was stolen, but its due diligence had found no record of the painting in databases of stolen art, including one distributed by Russia’s Culture Ministry.

“Sotheby’s also contacted the Moscow police who confirmed that they have no information that the painting in Sotheby’s sale is the allegedly stolen painting. Sotheby’s is in communication with the claimant of the allegedly stolen painting,” Sotheby’s said in a statement.

Ivan Aivazovsky, who lived between 1817 and 1900, was a prominent Russian-Armenian artist of the Romantic school noted for his landscapes and seascapes.

($1 = 0.6541 pounds)

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