Antiques Roadshow painting sale halted after claim it was stolen

The sale of a £100,000 painting, which surfaced during an Antiques Roadshow recording at Althorp House, has been halted at the last minute amid claims it was stolen.

Sotheby's was due to auction Winslow Homer's Children under a Palm Tree last week at its New York auction house but the painting was withdrawn following an appeal by Simon Murray, the great, great grandson of Sir Henry Arthur Blake.

Mr Murray claimed the painting was given to Sir Henry during his tenure as Governor of the Bahamas, and that it depicts Sir Henry's children.

The work of art, painted in 1885, was found in a tip in Ireland about 20 years ago after allegedly being stolen from the nearby Blake estate, Myrtle House. It only resurfaced last summer when the BBC visited Althorp House to record Antiques Roadshow.

A spokesman for Sotheby's said every precaution had been made to make sure the painting had not been stolen, and added the family was given "every opportunity" to claim the piece since it was brought to them in March.

He added: "Extensive checks were carried out to ensure the painting was not stolen."

Sotheby's said the family would now have to provide "documentary evidence" that the watercolour had been taken from their estate.

There was no suggestion that the vendor was responsible for the alleged theft. He apparently found the painting while on a fishing trip near Cork, and his daughter approached Sotheby's in March looking to sell it on.

How it came to be on a rubbish tip is not known.

During the Althorp recording, BBC expert Philip Mould picked out the painting, before noticing Homer's signature. Works by Homer, considered to be one of America's greatest 19th century artists, have fetched as much as 2million at auction.