A stolen painting found in a plastic bag at a London bus stop just sold for $22 million.

A stolen painting found in a plastic bag at a London bus stop just sold for $22 million.
  • "Rest on the Flight into Egypt" and other works were stolen from an English country house in 1995.

  • The painting, by a Venetian Old Master, was found at a bus stop in 2002 after a tip-off.

  • The auction house Christie's said the £17.5 million sale price set a record for a work by Titian.

An early painting by one of Europe's most famous painters was auctioned for a record high price years after it was recovered in a shopping bag at a bus stop.

"The Rest on the Flight into Egypt," an early work by the famed 16th-century Italian painter Titian, was sold for over £17.5 million ($22.3 million) on July 2, according to Christie's. It was the highest-priced work to be sold that evening and set a record for any work by Titian, the auction house said.

The painting's longtime owners, the family of a British nobles, held onto the painting after it was previously sold by Christie's in 1878. In 1995, however, the work was stolen from the walls of the family's country house, Longleat, along with two other paintings that are still reportedly missing.

In 2002, the painting was recovered by Charles Hill, an ex-Scotland Yard detective who died in 2021. He had announced a £100,000 reward for information leading to the painting's recovery.

He told The Telegraph in 2002 that he was contacted by a tipster who had Hill drive him around until they reached a bus stop in west London where an old man was standing beside a red, white and blue shopping bag that contained the painting.

"The problem with stealing a famous painting is that there is no way you can sell it," Hill told The Telegraph. "But if a reasonable reward is offered, the painting can turn up."

News reports around the time of the painting's recovery put its value at £5 million. Ahead of the recent sale, Christie's had estimated that the painting would go for £15 million to £25 million.

The Titian wasn't the only stolen artwork to be recovered in a state that might shock a curator. In 2003, a New York City woman found a $1 million painting that had been stolen about 16 years earlier in a pile of trash bags. And in September 2023, a Vincent van Gogh painting that was stolen in 2020 was found in an Ikea bag outside an art detective's apartment.

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