Artwork Stolen from Pitzhanger Manor in 2007 Recovered

Thieves broke into the museum taking sculptures worth £250,000

Christopher A. Marinello hands the recovered item to Dr. Jonathan Oates
Christopher A. Marinello hands the recovered item to Dr. Jonathan Oates


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September 14, 2023

A valuable sculpture that was part of a haul stolen from Pitzhanger Manor sixteen years ago has been recovered.

Earling in the morning on 22 March 2007, a gang of professional thieves broke into the museum by removing a window and getting around the security system.

They were targeting the valuable collection of Martinware sculptural pottery and 24 of these items were taken which were valued at the time at £250,000. An additional 13 of artworks of this kind had been stolen from Southall Library in 2005.

Martinware pottery is stoneware created by the Martin Brothers between the 1870s and the early 1900s. The best-known pieces are bird sculptures and 'grotesque' objects including jugs and vases. The collection was bequeathed to Ealing Council in the 1980s by John and Anne Hull Grundy.

One of the stolen pieces finally emerged in a sale in Moreton in the Marsh this July. A rare bird jar had been consigned for sale through Kinghams Auctioneers in Moreton-in-Marsh in its Fine and Decorative Arts Sale.

Art Recovery International (ARI) became involved in the case. It is a specialist practice founded by lawyer Christopher A. Marinello who is a leading expert on recovering stolen, looted, and missing works of art. Among the work it has done recovering and repatriating looted artworks, it has facilitated the return of pieces looted by the Nazis to their rightful owners. Mr Marinello has overseen the development of the ArtClaim Database which he says is most technologically advanced system in existence for the identification and recording of issues and claims attached to works of art.

Working pro bono, ARI handled the complex negotiations about the piece with Kinghams’ consignor and secured its release on an unconditional basis.

The artwork was returned on Friday, 8 September to Dr. Jonathan David Oates, Archivist for the London Borough of Ealing which runs the Museum.

This is the third piece of Martinware pottery recovered by ARI over the last few years, some of which appeared for sale in the UK and on eBay.

“This recovery was very much a team effort”, said Mr Marinello. “We are extremely grateful for the expertise of British art pottery expert Nigel Wilson and to George Kingham, the Director of Kinghams. Kinghams was at all times helpful and cooperative throughout the recovery process, something we don’t often find with provincial auction houses. We are also extremely grateful to the Zurich Insurance Group who were magnanimous in waiving the requirement for the original insurance settlement to be paid back as a gesture to the council and people of Ealing.”

He added, “Our ability to recover stolen artworks decades after the theft depends largely on museums reporting thefts to the police as soon as possible despite the embarrassment over the loss. The other critical element is to disseminate a detailed list of the objects that were stolen so that they may be recorded on various art world databases. If anyone believes that they may be in possession of one of these stolen sculptures, please feel free to contact us on a confidential basis.”

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