A Painting Stolen from the Musée de Picardie Found at Public Auction

1. Pierre Thuillier (1799-1858)
The Old Via Tiburtina, near Tivoli, 1843
Oil on canvas - 126 x 183 cm
Amiens, Musée de Picardie
Stolen in 1953, found in 2013
Photo : Étude Alban Gillet et Chativesle

26/11/13 - Recovered work - Amiens, Musée de Picardie - Last 8 December, a large landscape by Pierre Thullier, dated 1843, estimated at a modest 3,000 to 4,000€, was supposed to go on the block at the Reims auction hall (ill. 1).
Quite fortunately for the Musée de Picardie, Stéphane Grodée, a dealer in old masters and 19th century works, saw the picture in the Gazette de l’Hôtel Drouot and immediately recognized a painting from the museum (ill. 2), placed on deposit at the Fire Station in 1953 but which had disappeared probably in the early 1990’s. It had not been found when the Fire Brigade left the building there to move to Compiègne.
Stéphane Grodée, who lives in Amiens, is very familiar with the museum collections, especially since he had written his thesis for the Ecole du Louvre precisely on the subject. He immediately contacted the establishment which got in touch with the FNAC (Fonds National d’Art Contemporain). This agency in fact owns the work sent to Amiens by the government of Louis Philippe just after it was purchased at the Salon. The FNAC, backed by the museum [1], proceeded without delay to file a legal claim. The painting should be returned very soon, particularly since the auctioneers have been very cooperative as confirmed to us by the Musée de Picardie which will request permission from the FNAC to receive it as a deposit in the museum.

Pierre Thuillier (1799-1858)
The Old Via Tiburtina, near Tivoli, 1843
Huile sur toile - 126 x 183 cm
Amiens, Musée de Picardie
Photograph taken at inventory after WWII
Photo : Musée de Picardie

Pierre Thuillier was born in Amiens and, according to the Dictionnaire Bellier et Auvray, studied under Louis Etienne Watelet and Théodore Gudin. At the Salon of 1843, he exhibited five Italian landscapes. The recovered painting is n° 1137 with the title The Old Via Tiburtina, near Tivoli and is perfectly documented and photographed in the museum archives.
This lucky story has a moral : a museum painting has no business being in a Fire Brigade Station ! We should remember that although works from national museums can only be placed on deposit in other museums (a ruling which often goes unobserved), there is no law prohibiting an establishment which is part of a municipality from hanging them in its premises, often under the influence of elected officials, in just about any building it likes and flaunting the most elementary security conditions. In this case, it was a sub-deposit since the work did not strictly belong to the Musée de Picardie, though it was always part of its collections.
The painting will be highlighted in a special-study exhibition (a Focus) and will also be presented in the exhibition "Sur la route d’Italie, peindre la nature d’Hubert Robert à Corot. Le goût d’un collecionneur" [2] to be organized at the Musée de Picardie in 2015, after a first stop in Evreux in 2014.

Version françasie

Didier Rykner, mardi 26 novembre 2013


[1] We would like to thank Stéphane Grodée, Olivia Voisin, curator at the Musée de Picardie and Aure Bodet, head of the conservation and distribution department at the FNAC, for helping us in preparing this news item.

[2] Tentative title.

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