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Tuesday, 21 August, 2001, 18:09 GMT 19:09 UK
Reward offered for 'peace' painting
Study for Over Vitebsk
The police are hunting for Chagall's Study for Over Vitebsk
By Jane Standley in New York

A museum in New York is offering a $25,000 reward for the recovery of a work done in 1914 by the painter Marc Chagall which was stolen in June.

Police are investigating a letter sent to the museum by a previously unheard of group which says it has the work and will return it only when there is peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

I do think that art in general and Chagall in particular must serve dialogue, overture and peace

Yehuda Lancry
Israel's UN ambassador
Chagall's oil painting, "Study for Over Vitebsk", was discovered missing from Manhattan's Jewish Museum in June, after a cocktail party for 200 guests.

It appeared at first to be an ordinary art theft - the work is valued at more than $1 million and was on loan from a private collector in Russia.

But then the Jewish Museum received a letter saying the price for the painting's return was peace in the Middle East.

Political art

The letter was postmarked in New York's Bronx and signed by a group called the International Committee for Art and Peace, which is not familiar to the police or the FBI.

It is still not clear if the letter is real or a hoax but it is believed to contain information which could only have come from someone with the painting in their possession.

I like Chagall

Nasser al-Kidwa
Palestinian official
For now police are treating the incident as a highly unusual case of art being stolen for political purposes.

Art historians say they can only remember two other similar cases - one a theft by the IRA of works from a private collection in Britain, the other in Norway six years ago, when the famous work "The Scream" by Edvard Munch was stolen from the National Gallery.

Both works were later recovered.

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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