ROME — A Paul Gauguin still life stolen from a wealthy collector's home in Britain decades ago has been recovered after hanging for 40 years in a Sicilian autoworker's kitchen.
The worker bought the painting along with one of lesser value by another French artist, Pierre Bonnard, for about $100 at a 1975 Italian state railway auction of unclaimed lost items, said Maj. Massimiliano Quagliarella of the paramilitary Carabinieri art theft squad.
Italian authorities on Wednesday estimated the still life's worth in a range from 10 million euros to 30 million euros ($14 million to $40 million).
"The painting, showing fruit, seemed to fit in with dining room decor," Quagliarella told The Associated Press about the now-retired autoworker's choice of placement in his kitchen, first in Turin, then in Sicily.
The painting is believed to have "traveled" on a Paris-to-Turin train before it was found by railway personnel who put it in the lost-and-found depot, said Gen. Mariano Mossa. After the autoworker retired to Sicily, the man's son, who studied architecture at university, noticed a telling detail: a dog curled up in the corner.
Dogs were sometimes a signature motif for Gauguin's work.
The man's son contacted an art expert to get an evaluation. The expert concluded the work was likely a Gauguin painting, and contacted the Carabinieri's division dedicated to recovering stolen and trafficked art and ancient artifacts.
The painting — named "Fruit on a Table with a Small Dog" — depicts two bowls brimming with brightly colored grapes, apples and other pieces of fruit. On the front is a painted "89" — an indication it was created in 1889. It now measures 46.5 by 53 centimeters (about 18 by 20 inches) — slightly smaller than when Gauguin created it because the thieves cut the painting out of its frame, police said.