longest side (cm)
est. value ($ mill.)
The English portrait and landscape painter Thomas Gainsborough was born in Sudbury in 1727 and died in London in 1788. Gainsborough is considered one of the most important English painters of the 18th century.
The painting “Portrait of Lady Georgiana Cavendish” was completed in 1787 by Thomas Gainsborough and has the dimensions 127 × 101.5 cm. It was bought by Chatsworth House in Derbyshire in England. More than 200 years later, after an art theft, it has spectacularly returned to the Chatsworth House collection. It is now part of the Chatsworth House Collection.
The artwork was owned by Chatsworth House after it was completed until it inexplicably disappeared. Around 1830 it was discovered in a school principal's apartment - she trimmed the painting until it fit her taste over her fireplace. In 1841 she sold the painting for £ 56 to an art dealer who gave it to his friend, then art connoisseur Wynn Ellis. When Ellis died, Gainsborough's oil painting was auctioned at Sotheby’s in London in 1876. The picture changed hands for the record sum of £ 10,000. The art dealer William Agnew bought the painting. But after only three weeks, on May 25th, 1876, it was stolen from his Thomas Agnew & Sons gallery on London's Bond Street. The robbery of art received a great response in the daily newspapers at the time, including guesswork and speculation as to where the painting could be.
After later investigation, the American Adam Worth stole the painting to buy his brother free from prison. Worth's brother was surprisingly released from custody, so he just kept the painting.
Adam Worth was none other than the infamous “Napoleon of the criminal world”. Worth's popularity as a thief was so high that he served as the model for Sherlock Holmes' novelist "Professor Moriarty" - "the detective's opponent".
After initial pickpockets in New York, Adam Worth started robbing banks under the name of Henry Raimond. Later, he specialized in large thefts with an organized gang and thus looted enormous sums of money. Since he thieves, who did not pay for the painting “Portrait of Lady Georgiana Cavendish” on his behalf, the petty criminals went to the police. Adam Worth had to go to jail in England for four years for the art loot in 1893.
After returning to the United States, he contacted the famous Pinkterton detective agency and sold the painting to Thomas Agnew's son for a ransom of $ 25,000. The handover was carried out in Chicago in March 1901. Gainsborough's artwork subsequently came back to London. 105 years after the art theft from the London Agnew’s Gallery, the painting came back into her possession in 1901. The Agnew’s Gallery sold it to Wall Street financier J. P. Morgan for $ 150,000. In 1994, Gainsborough's painting “Portrait of Lady Georgiana Cavendish” was auctioned at the Sotheby’s auction house. The 11th Duke of Devonshire received the award for $ 408,870. Today the painting hangs in Chatsworth House in Derbyshire, England. Thus, the painting has returned to the original owner after more than 200 years.