Stolen Gauguin painting recovered, valued at $41m

A pair of stolen paintings by renowned artists Paul Gauguin and Pierre Bonnard have been recovered by police, having spent four decades hanging on the wall of an Italian factory worker.

Paul Gauguin stolen painting
Gaugin was highly influential on artists such as Matisse and Picasso, making his work some of the most valuable at auction today

The paintings were stolen from a London collector's home in 1970, and were then left on a train in Italy by an unknown passenger. The Italian retiree, a former Fiat employee, picked them up for just 45,000 Italian lire (around $30).

Today, the Gauguin alone is valued in the region of $41m, while the Bonnard could sell for as much as $690,000 should it appear for sale.

The finder says he first became alerted to their origin after his son found a similar painting by Gauguin in a book. After consulting experts, it was revealed that the paintings had been missing for some years and he then contacted police.

"It's an incredible story, an amazing recovery. A symbol of all the work which Italian art police have put in over the years behind the scenes," said Italy's culture minister, Dario Franceschini.

The find highlights the importance of checking the Art Loss Register prior to any major purchase - even top auction houses aren't infallible, with Sotheby's accidentally selling a stolen Renoir recently.

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