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Titian masterpiece stolen and found at bus stop sells for €20m

Titian's The Rest on the Flight into Egypt
Titian's The Rest on the Flight into Egypt Copyright Wikimedia Commons
Copyright Wikimedia Commons
By Euronews Culture with AP
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The early artwork by Venetian master Titian has a dramatic history of thefts – including being left in a plastic bag at a London bus stop.


Renaissance painter Titian’s 'The Rest on the Flight into Egypt' has fetched a record price at London auction house Christie's having been stolen multiple times.

Its sale for €20.6m (£17.5m) sets a new world record for Titian’s works, according to auctioneers.

The 1510 painting was first taken by Napoleon's troops from Belvedere Palace in Vienna during the early 19th century. More recently, in 1995, it was taken from Longleat House in England, where it had hung since it was acquired by the 4th Marquess of Bath in 1878 – a reward of £100,000 was offered for its safe return.

It was found seven years later without its frame in a plastic carrier bag at a London bus stop. The former Scotland Yard detective who found it, Charles Hill, is also credited with helping to recover other famous artworks, including Edvard Munch’s 'The Scream'.

The painting was taken from Longleat House in 1995
The painting was taken from Longleat House in 1995 Longleat House

Christie's global head of the Old Masters Department, Andrew Fletcher, said the painting is "a truly outstanding example of the artist's pioneering approach to both the use of colour and the representation of the human form in the natural world”. 

'The Rest on the Flight into Egypt' is the most important work by Titian to come to the auction market "in more than a generation", he believes.

Indeed, as one of the last of the Renaissance master's early religious works still in private hands, the painting’s auction by Christie's attracted significant attention.

Lord Bath, who succeeded his father as the Marquess of Bath in 2020 to inherit the Longleat estate, said the painting – which depicts the Holy Family pausing on their journey to Egypt –  had an "extraordinary history".

"We have a considerable long-term investment strategy at Longleat and have decided to sell this asset to further this agenda at a time when the market for paintings of such unique rarity is so strong,” he said ahead of the sale.

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