TBILISI, DFWatch–Two men were detained Friday in Turkey as they were attempting to sell a Van Dyck painting that had been allegedly illegally imported from Georgia.
Turkish media reported that the painting was on sale for USD 14 million but had allegedly been obtained from a Georgian family for only USD 7,000.
The Georgian family told journalists that the painting has been in their possession for many years.
Eka Abashidze told Georgian television channel Rustavi that the painting was purchased for USD 5,000 in Tbilisi’s Vake district 15 years ago her brother, Giorgi Abashidze, and used to hang on the family wall for many years.
Five years later, her brother was arrested. The family needed money to pay for his plea agreement and decided to sell it.
Not knowing that it was a Van Dyck painting, the family agreed to sell it to Malkhaz Makharadze and Zahir Huseinov for USD 37,000.
But they only received USD 7,000.
“They paid us USD 7,000 and should have paid the rest within a few days, but they never came back,” she told the TV channel.
Abashidze claims experts have estimated the painting to be worth from USD 80,000 to USD 100,000 and many people came to see it but offered little money for it.
When her brother was released, she continued, the family decided to go to court against Zahir Huseinov. They won the case and the latter was sentenced to pay USD 30,000, however he didn’t own any property and the family didn’t receive the compensation.
According to Turkish media, the painting was brought to Turkey through Russia and Georgia.
In an interview with Rustavi 2, Huseinov confirmed that he bought the painting from the Abashidze family and took it to Turkey, but that it happened legally. He believes that he is also a victim in the case, as he was never paid for the panting either.
He recalled that when they bought the painting they took it to the Ministry of Culture to have the transfer documented. The ministry representatives assessed the painting to be worth USD 5,000, but they were unable to identify the artist, Huseinov continued.
He says all documents were in order at the border. They left the painting at his friend in Samsun, Turkey, however his friend’s son allegedly stole the painting. He doesn’t know what happened to it afterward.
They complained to the local Prosecutor’s Office, but the case remained unresolved.
Abashidze later said that if the painting is returned to her family, they will return it to the Netherlands.
The Finance Police summoned her for questioning on Sunday. She expressed willingness to cooperate.
Earlier, the Ministry of Internal Affairs stated that information officially provided by their Turkish counterparts did not reveal any connection with Georgia and the two investors arrested in the case do not confirm any relation with Georgia.
The Flemish artist Anthony Van Dyck (1599-1641) was the leading court painter in England, specializing in portraits. The style of facial hair known as a “van dyke beard” is named after him.