Relying on its one-of-a-kind, international database of over 300,000 lost and stolen items, the Art Loss Register has recovered an ivory box stolen from a private residence in , while the theft victim sat rooms away.
The theft of the delicately crafted box, executed by famed French draftsman Charles-Etienne Thomas (1787-1857), occurred in December 2009.
Chubb Insurance, acting on behalf of the theft victim, was quick to provide photographs of the stolen property to the Warwickshire Police who within days reported the items to the Art Loss Register. The ALR maintains the largest international database of lost and stolen works of art. It records both public and private losses, regularly conducts searches of the database against international auctions, private treaty sales, gallery stock, art fairs and museum collections, and aims to identify then mediate the return of these items.
In March 2010, just over three months after the box’s theft, the ALR matched the stolen box at a Christie’s New York auction where it had been valued at $4,000 to $6,000. The name ‘Dieppe’ is attached to the box as it denotes the type of ivory traded in the port city in France, which served as a luxury commerce hub from the 16th through 19th centuries.
Christie’s immediately withdrew the box from auction and held it until the ALR negotiated the consignor’s surrender of the item. The consignor, a former US police officer, was completely unaware of the box’s crooked history, and cooperated fully with the ALR and Detective Constable Paul Whitehurst of Warwickshire Police, who led the UK investigation.
By June, a mere six months after it was stolen, Chubb was happy to offer the Dieppe Carved Ivory Box back to its client, the theft victim.
Christopher A. Marinello, executive director and general counsel for the ALR, who led the case, commended Detective Constable Whitehurst for his persistence. “The theft victim was fortunate to have such a diligent officer working on his behalf. Choosing a quality fine art insurer like Chubb who painstakingly documents its client’s possessions is the smartest move you can make if you ever hope to recover a cherished family heirloom after a theft.”
-posted by Eric Bradley
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