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Wednesday, November 17, 1999 Published at 19:56 GMT


Lost Cezanne under the hammer

The painting has an estimated value of between £9m and £12m

A masterpiece by French painter Paul Cezanne thought lost after being stolen 21 years ago is to be sold in London.

The still-life of a pewter pitcher and fruit is expected to fetch at least £9m when it comes up for sale at Sotheby's on 7 December. It was recovered when police swooped on a undisclosed location to recover the long-missing Bouilloire et fruits.

The canvas, from the peak of Cezanne's career, was stolen from the Massachusetts home of a relative of its original owner, wealthy American paediatrician Dr Harry Bakwin.

Along with his wife, Dr Bakwin collected a series of major works after becoming personally acquainted with leading impressionist movement dealers and artists while living in Europe during the 1920s.

A spokesman for the Art Loss Register, set up to trace stolen works, described it as "one of the most significant finds in recent years".

'Prosecution unlikely'

The company refused to reveal any details concerning the recovery operation, saying only that it had informed "US and overseas police forces" of its progress. The work was not thought to have been recovered in Britain.

A spokesman for the Bakwin family, which took the decision to offer the painting for sale after its rediscovery, said they had given up all hope of the picture being recovered.

A prosecution is said to be unlikely due to the American statute of limitations placing a deadline on any legal proceedings.

The painting, completed between 1888 and 1890, will be sold at Sotheby's with an estimated value of between £9m and £12m. A similar work by Cezanne was bought at a Sotheby's sale in New York last week for £10m.

A spokesman for the auction house said: "This latest picture will be one of the most important paintings offered in London this decade. It was completed when Cezanne was at the peak of his powers."

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