Agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Art Crime Team (ACT) have located an original Norman Rockwell painting, Russian Schoolroom, stolen during a late night burglary in Clayton, Missouri in 1973. It was found in the home of movie mogul Steven Spielberg who was unaware it was stolen art, according to Roland J. Corvington, special agent in charge of the FBI’s St. Louis field office, and J. Stephen Tidwell, assistant director in the FBI’s Los Angeles office.
At the time of theft, the painting was part of a Norman Rockwell Exhibit being sponsored by the Chicago’s Circle Galleries, now known as Arts International Galleries. This painting is also referred to as The Russian Classroom or Russian Schoolchildren.
Records for the Russian Schoolroom indicate that the painting’s location was unknown between 1973, after the theft, and 1988. In October 1988, Russian Schoolroom was sold at auction in New Orleans, Louisiana. In 2004, Agents with the FBI’s ACT determined the painting had been advertised for sale at a Norman Rockwell exhibit in New York in 1989.
Acting on this information, the FBI’s ACT in St. Louis initiated a “cold case” investigation to locate and recover the Russian Schoolroom. Investigative leads were followed by FBI agents in New York and Los Angeles. A description and photograph of the painting was posted on the FBI’s Art Crime Team’s website at www.fbi.gov.
While the FBI’s ACT were following leads to find the painting, the staff of motion picture director and producer, Steven Spielberg, learned that the painting, which was in Spielberg’s collection, was stolen after they viewed an FBI theft notice. Spielberg’s staff immediately brought the painting’s current location to the FBI’s attention.
Spielberg purchased the painting in 1989 from a legitimate dealer and did not become aware that it was a stolen work of art until last week. Spielberg is cooperating fully with the FBI and will retain possession of the painting until its disposition can be determined. The investigation is continuing.
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