Stolen Rockwell painting returned to family set for auction

  • John Grant (right) shakes hands with FBI Special Agent Jacob Archer, after taking custody of a recovered Norman Rockwell painting stolen during a 1976 break-in. AP file

Associated Press
Published: 10/6/2017 2:18:56 PM

A Norman Rockwell painting recently returned to a family after it was stolen from their New Jersey home more than 40 years ago is going up for auction.

The 1919 painting, known as “Taking a Break” and “Lazybones,” was returned to members of the Grant family by FBI art crimes agents in Philadelphia last March. The piece was one of a number of items stolen from the family’s home in Cherry Hill, N.J., during a June 30, 1976, break-in.

The Grants knew the painting was theirs because it still had damage from where their father had struck it with a pool cue.

Heritage Auctions announced Wednesday the painting will be auctioned Nov. 3 in Dallas, where it is expected to fetch up to $1.5 million. But that pool cue damage isn’t part of the deal.

Aviva Lehmann, the auction house’s director of American Fine Art in New York, said a conservator mended the tell-tale hole and restored the painting.

“We were on the fence on whether to offer it as-is or clean it up,” she said.

After consulting the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Mass., it was decided to restore it and make it look as fresh as possible.

“It looks like it was painted yesterday,” Lehmann said. “The family gasped, it was so startling in a very good way. It literally looks like it was brought back to life.”

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