France bars London-based artwork from leaving Paris
France laid claim on Monday to a French baroque painting which it insists was stolen 200 years ago and Paris has barred the London gallery which brought the work to the French capital for an exhibition from taking it back.
France's culture ministry said the picture, "The Carrying of the Cross" painted by Nicolas Tournier around 1632, had been stolen from a museum in the southern city of Toulouse in 1818 and still belonged to the French state.
"This was a property of the French state that was deposited at the Augustins Museum in Toulouse and was stolen in 1818. It is a non-transferable work," the ministry said in a statement.
"We are claiming this painting as a property of the state and it will not leave the country," the ministry said, adding that it had informed the gallery of its decision at the weekend.
At the opening of the fair on Monday, the monumental painting of Christ carrying the cross, which measures 2.2 metres by 1.21 metres was on display at the Weiss Gallery's stand.
A company representative refused to comment on the ministry statement.
A note at the stand said the painting had come from the Augustins Museum and it had been sold by Sotheby's in Italy and later at the Maastricht art fair.
The painting turned up in 2009 in Italy during the sale of the estate of a wealthy Florence art collector and was later identified by French gallery Didier Aaron & Cie, art merchant Herve Aaron said.
The French gallery sold the work to the Weiss Gallery at the 2010 Maastricht art fair for 400,000 euros.