“The painting ‘Le Jardin’ has been brought home from London. Right now the painting is in its transportation case,” the museum said in a statement, adding that the artwork would need 24 hours to acclimatise to its new surroundings before being unpacked.
“It’s a welcome return,” Daniel Birnbaum, the museum’s director, said in a
Henri Matisse’s oil on canvas from 1920, which is now worth about $1 million, was found when an art dealer based outside London ran it through a global database of stolen art – standard practice before a sale.
The team at the Art Loss Register quickly identified the painting as the one stolen from the Swedish museum on May 11, 1987, when a burglar broke in with a sledgehammer and made off with the artwork in the early morning hours.
Media reports have claimed attempts were made to ransom the painting or sell it back to the museum for a huge sum, but a museum spokeswoman said no contact had been made.
“The Museum of Modern Art is a state-owned museum and it is absolutely out of the question for us to pay a ransom,” Kerstin Ek told AFP in a recent interview.
The dealer, Charles Roberts, said he had been asked to sell the painting by an elderly man in Poland who had owned it since the 1990s and now wanted to raise money for his grandchildren.
The director of the Swedish museum at the time of the theft had told reporters that the painting was too well-known to sell on the open market, and this is likely why it had been missing for so long.
Swedish police has said no investigation into the theft is underway since the statute of limitations has already expired.
The Museum of Modern Art will show the returned Matisse to the media at a press conference on Thursday at 10am.