Missing old master paintings return to auction with Christie's

A group of old master paintings that went missing from the Noortman gallery in Maastricht in 1987 have returned to auction. They will be offered by Christie's from May until November 2014.

Pissarro Bords de la Seine
The works were thought to have been lost forever, but were recovered after a mystery informant held them for ransom

The group of eight works, which includes masterpieces by Pissarro, Renoir and Van de Velde, are being sold to cover insurance pay-outs and other costs involved in their recovery, having been the subject of a complicated case.

The Art Loss Register estimated their combined value at around ��2m ($2.7m) in 1987, but they are now worth just $1.2m according to experts at Christie's, with some of the paintings having sustained damage.

Detective Ben Zuidema was hired to find the works after they went missing, but having failed to do so, the insurance company was forced to pay the ��2m.

However, Zuidema was contacted in 2008 by a mystery informant, who said that Robert Noortman - who died in 2007 - had asked him to destroy all of the works.

But the informant had actually disposed of just one of the paintings, and was holding the rest to ransom to the tune of £4.5m ($7.5m). Zuidena arranged a meeting, but also told local police, who then conducted an operation to successfully recover the prized artworks.

The protracted court case is still being decided, but Christie's has nonetheless been instructed to sell the works over a number of sales between now and November. The highest valued lot is Bords de la Seine a Bougival, an 1871 piece by Camille Pissarro valued at £250,000-350,000 ($420,103-588,144).

We have a fantastic signed letter from Pierre-Auguste Renoir for sale.

Paul Fraser Collectibles brings you all the top collecting news - sign up to our free newsletter for more.

Featured products

Elvis Presley Authentic Strand of Hair
Elvis Presley Authentic Strand of Hair
Sale price£399
In stock
Fidel Castro signed certificateFidel Castro Signed Certificate
Fidel Castro signed certificate
Sale price£2,995
In stock
King Henry VIII Autographed DocumentKing Henry VIII Autographed Document
King Henry VIII Autographed Document
Sale price£55,000
In stock