MOSCOW (Reuters) - The international auction house Sotheby’s withdrew from auction on Tuesday a painting by a famous Russian artist that Russia’s Interior Ministry said last week had been stolen in 1997 from a private collection in Moscow.
The auction house said “Evening in Cairo” by Ivan Aivazovsky had been withdrawn from the London sale at the request of the consignor, or seller.
The Russian Interior Ministry, which had asked that British police block the auction, said in a statement on Tuesday the painting had been withdrawn “with the aim of resolving questions connected with compensation of the victim”. The decision, it said, had been agreed by all interested parties.
Sotheby’s said last week it had found no record of the painting in the databases of stolen art and would proceed with the sale on June 2, with the agreement of the consignor and the family which said it had been stolen. It was not clear why there had been an apparent change of mind.
In an emailed statement on Tuesday, Sotheby’s said: “Ivan Aivazovsky’s Evening in Cairo, Lot 23, in Sotheby’s 2 June 2015 Sale of Russian Pictures has been withdrawn at the request of the consignor.”
The Interior Ministry did not name the complainants but Sotheby’s earlier identified them as the Nosenko family, which Russian media said had purchased the painting in the 1940s.
The 1870 painting had been listed by Sotheby’s with an estimated value of 1.5-2 million pounds ($2-$3 million), as part of a collection of Russian pictures due to be sold in London.
The Sotheby’s website cited the provenance of the work as the collection of one N.I. Dedov.
Sotheby’s kept the identity of the seller confidential but said the individual had acquired the painting in good faith in 2000.
Reporting by Katya Golubkova, additional reporting by Jason Bush, editing by Elizabeth Piper and Ralph Boulton