Japanese Man Claims $1.6M Renoir Painting Sold at Sotheby’s Was Stolen


A Japanese collector says that the 1903 Pierre-Auguste Renoir painting “Madame Valtat” (pictured) — which portrays Suzanne Valtat, the wife of artist Louis Valtat, who was a friend of Renoir’s — which was sold at Sotheby’s in London in February for £1,049,250 ($1.61 million) was one of six works stolen from his home in Tokyo’s Setagaya ward in August of 2000, the Japan Times reports.

According to the collector, whose name is not revealed, he discovered that the Renoir, as well as works by Marc Chagall, Ikuo Hirayama, and more, had been taken in the summer of 2000 but did not log his loss with the Art Loss Register or any other database of stolen art. The owner informed police at the time, but nobody thought to register the work as stolen. Then, following February’s auction, he contacted Japanese police regarding the stolen Renoir. He plans to seek the work’s return.

According to the Japan Times, Sotheby’s has said that the seller of the disputed work had bought it legitimately in 2000, and provided documents and certificates as evidence. Nevertheless, the auction house is looking into the painting’s provenance for possible evidence of theft.


— Benjamin Sutton

(Image: Detail from Pierre-August Renoir, “Madame Valtat,” 1903. Courtesy Sotheby’s.)