Renaissance painting once stolen and found at bus stop could sell for  million at art auction

Renaissance painting once stolen and found at bus stop could sell for $32 million at art auction

A Renaissance painting once stolen from a nobleman’s home in southwest England and found at a bus stop in London may sell for $32 million at an art auction next month.

Tiziano Vecellio’s early masterpiece “The Rest on the Flight Into Egypt” has had many homes since it was painted, presumably in the first decade of the 16th century, according to the auction house Christie’s. The painting depicts Joseph, Mary and the baby Jesus resting while en route to Egypt to seek safety from King Herod, who Joseph dreamed wanted to kill Jesus.

“Her feet planted firmly on the ground, the Madonna wraps Jesus in a protective embrace at the centre of the canvas,” reads a description of the painting on the Christie’s website. “The pair are shown in suspended animation, in an intimate moment of tenderness between mother and son. The latter, somewhat fidgety, leans into his mother, tugging at her hair.”

Vecellio, also known as Titian, is believed to have painted the masterpiece at around the age of 20 in Venice. It was first documented in the collection of a 17th-century Venetian spice merchant, before it was sold to English nobleman James Hamilton in 1638 and sent to London, according to Christie’s. The Titian piece was then acquired by Archduke Leopold Wilhelm of Austria and taken to Vienna, where it was “looted by Napoleonic troops during the French occupation of the city in 1809.”

Upon the death of the painting’s next owner, a Scottish landowner, it was sold by Christie’s to John Alexander Thynne, the fourth marquess of Bath, England. It was subsequently stolen from Longleat House, the nobleman’s home in Wiltshire, in the southwest of England, in 1995.

Seven years later, the early Titian work was found in a bag at a bus stop in southwest London by Charles Hill, an art detective at the time, who returned it to Longleat, per Christie’s. It’s not clear who stole the painting, or where it was during the years it disappeared.

Now, the painting is once again being sold by Christie’s at its “Art from antiquity to the 20th century” exhibition, from July 2 to 10 in London. Christie’s estimates “The Rest on the Flight Into Egypt” will sell for anywhere from $19 million to $31.7 million.