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Monday, 20 August, 2001, 15:47 GMT 16:47 UK
Art 'held ransom' for Middle East peace
Study for Over Vitebsk
Study for Over Vitebsk was painted in 1914
A stolen Marc Chagall painting will not be returned until there is peace in the Middle East, says a group which claims to have the work.

A letter signed by a group calling itself the International Committee for Art and Peace has been received by The New York Times, the paper said on Monday.

This communication gives us hope for the possibility of recovering the work

The Jewish Museum
Authorities believe the letter is not a hoax.

"Our investigation to date supports that whoever sent this letter has knowledge about the whereabouts of the painting," said an investigator.

The painting, Study for Over Vitebsk, has been missing since 8 June from New York's Jewish Museum and has an estimated value of $1m (690,000).

The work, from 1914, shows an old man carrying a walking stick and beggar's sack, floating in the sky above a village.

Investigators told the newspaper that they could not tell whether the letter writer's sympathies lay with the Palestinians or Israel.

The letter has given the Jewish Museum a glimmer of hope that the return of the painting may be possible.

"We are extremely distressed about the missing painting, and this communication gives us hope for the possibility of recovering the work," said Anne Scher, a spokeswoman at the museum.

See also:

26 Jun 01 | Arts
Monet art sale raises millions
06 Jul 98 | Entertainment
Chagall and the art of passion and drama
24 Nov 00 | Asia-Pacific
'Fakes' on sale in Jakarta
07 Dec 99 | Business
Grim picture for arts market
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