Chatsworth House welcomes back long-lost masterpiece after 40 years

After more than four decades missing, a stolen painting has finally found its way back home, per

The oil on wood artwork, “A Double Portrait of Sir Peter Paul Rubens and Sir Anthony Van Dyck” by Eramus Quelliness II (1640s), was snatched during a smash and grab raid at the Towner Art Gallery in Eastborne, southeast England, on May 26, 1979.

The thieves left behind a collection of valuable original Van Dyck drawings, opting instead for what appeared to be the more valuable painting.

However, after an eagle-eyed art historian spotted the painting at an auction in Toulon, France, in 2021, the long-lost artwork was identified and traced back to its rightful home at Chatsworth House in Derbyshire, UK. It was revealed that the painting had been found in the seller’s late parent’s house in Eastbourne, which had been occupied by squatters shortly after the theft.

Eramus Quelliness II’s A Double Portrait of Sir Peter Paul Rubens and Sir Anthony Van Dyck (1640s)
© Chatsworth House Trust

Although the painting had suffered some damage over the years, including paint flaking and nicotine stains, it has since been carefully restored. Following a three-year negotiation, delayed by the Covid-19 pandemic, the painting has been returned to Chatsworth House and is now back on display for the public to enjoy.

Lucy O’Meara, the recoveries manager at the Art Loss Register, expressed her delight at the successful return of the painting, emphasising the rarity of being able to trace a stolen artwork back to its original location after so many years. 

Alice Martin, head of the Devonshire collections at Chatsworth, noted that the news was especially meaningful to Peter Day, the retired keeper of the Chatsworth Collection, who was in his post at the time of the theft. With the return of the painting, a long-standing mystery has finally been resolved, bringing closure to both the Chatsworth House and the art community at large.

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