A Norman Rockwell painting recovered by the FBI, 40 years after it was stolen, could fetch more than $1 million at Heritage Auctions next month.
Rockwell painted Lazybones when he was just 25, as one of his earliest cover artworks for the Saturday Evening Post.
The painting depicts Mark Twain’s classic American character Huck Finn, asleep beneath a tree in his tattered suspenders.
After it was published in September 1919, the painting was sold to a New Jersey resident, who hung it in his recreation room for many years.
However, it was damaged during a game of pool in the mid-1950s, when the owner’s friend Robert Grant inadvertently tore it with his cue.
Grant then graciously bought the torn painting for $100 and hung it in his own home, where it became a much-loved family treasure.
But in 1976 the painting was stolen during a burglary, along with a TV set and Grant’s coin collection. The thieves left no clues, the trail went cold, and the painting was believed lost forever.
Forty years later, on the anniversary of the theft, the Grant family told their story to an FBI agent who specialized in stolen artworks.
In an attempt to stir up some new information, the Bureau issued a press release about the painting, and it caught the eye of a Philadelphia antiques dealer.
For years he’d believed that the Rockwell painting he owned was a cheap reproduction – but when he read the story, and noticed it had a hole the size of a pool cue, he realized what he had hanging on his kitchen wall.
A stolen Norman Rockwell original worth $1 million.
He swiftly contacted the FBI, and after 40 years the Grant family was finally reunited with their long-lost painting.
"Usually we’re standing up here talking about corruption or violent crime or some serious drug organizations," said Acting U.S. Attorney of the Eastern District of PA Louis D. Lappen, as he returned the painting back in March 2017.
"It’s nice to be up here to just thank everyone and talk about an event that’s a feel-good event and is a piece of history."
Having been restored to its original condition, the early Norman Rockwell masterpiece is now expected to fetch $1 – $1.5 million when it goes under the hammer at Heritage Auctions in Dallas on November 3.