Entertainment18th-century painting, stolen by the mafia in 1969, finally returns to its owners

18th-century painting, stolen by the mafia in 1969, finally returns to its owners

Brushes with paint.
Brushes with paint.
Images source: © Adobe Stock | kichigin19

12:17 PM EST, January 29, 2024

On Friday, 26 January, the FBI's Salt Lake City Field Office announced that the rare British painting stolen half a century ago - most likely by the New Jersey mobsters - has finally been returned to its owners, the family in New Jersey.

The artwork under discussion is "The Schoolmistress" by English painter John Opie. He portrayed many notable men of his day, including members of the British Royal Family and writers Mary Wollstonecraft and Samuel Johnson. Apart from portraits, John Opie painted historical scenes. "The Schoolmistress" was created about 1784. It's oil on canvas, measuring around 40 x 50 inches.

"The Schoolmistress": A Crime Story

The painting belonged to the Wood family. Earl Leroy Wood purchased it for $7,500 during the Great Depression. As Earl's grandchildren Penelope Wood Kulko and Tom Wood report to KSLTV.com, "The Schoolmistress" was their grandfather's pride - he hung the painting in the house for everyone to admire.

"I sat across from it at Sunday dinner every year until I was 10 years old," Penelope Wood Kulko said. And Tom Wood added: "It was a painting that was part of my growing up."

Then, in 1969, the artwork was stolen. Officials believe that the former lawmaker from New Jersey was among those involved. Afterwards, "The Schoolmistress" was passed from one mobster to another. In 1989, the Utah man bought a house in Florida from a mobster, and the artwork was included in the property's furnishings.

The Final Stop

The case investigation began near the end of 2021 when the company from Washington County, Utah, contacted the local police. The property's owner died, and the company was to liquidate his possessions. They found "The Schoolmistress" there, and when they evaluated it, it turned out that this was most likely the stolen one.

The painting has now been returned to Earl's 96-year-old son.

sources: KSLTV.com, CBSNews.com

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