Stolen Cezanne Brings $30M

An anonymous buyer has paid $30 million at auction for a still-life painting by Paul Cezanne that was stolen from a Massachusetts home in 1978.

Bouilloire Et Fruits, pewter pitcher and fruits, had been expected to fetch between $15 million and $19.5 million at the auction of Impressionist and modern art at Sotheby's on Tuesday.

The sale also included 25 works by Pablo Picasso collected by the murdered fashion designer Gianni Versace.

The Cezanne, circa 1888-90, shows an arrangement of apples, oranges and a lemon next to a pewter pitcher and is regarded as a precursor to the Cubist movement. The buyer bid by phone.

The painting was recovered in October after an insurance underwriter contacted the London-based Art Loss Register and discovered the painting had belonged to two deceased Lenox-based pediatricians, Harry and Ruth Bakwin. The painting was returned to the family, who decided to sell it.

Julian Radcliffe, chairman of the Register, refused Tuesday to reveal who had harbored the painting for two decades, but said no charges will be brought.

"There is no crime to be investigated now because the statute of limitations is up," said Radcliffe.

The one-day London auction raised $66 million and follows Sotheby's Impressionist and modern art sale in New York in November, which took in $242.6 million over two days.

Versace's collection spanned Picasso's career from 1902 to the 1960's and raised $17.5 million for the Versace family estate.

The designer was fatally shot in 1997 at his Miami Beach home.

Versace's Young Girl with a Boat, featuring Picasso's eldest daughter Maya, sold for $5.9 million, also to an anonymous telephone bidder.

Woman Sitting in a Chair, an oil portrait of Picasso's mistress Dora Maar, fetched $5.28 million.

"The family is pleased with the results. It is a testament to Gianni's eye," said Versace family spokesman Lou Colasuonno.

Other highlights from Tuesday's auction included the sale of Van Gogh's 1889 Oliviers Avec Les Alpilles Au Fond, an ink drawing of olive trees, which fetched $8.45 million a record price for a Van Gogh drawing. It was bought by New York's Museum of Modern Art.