Chagall Painting Stolen 24 Years Ago to Be Auctioned in Israel

For 19 years, no one knew what had happened to the painting. Then, in 2015, a woman in Jerusalem died, and her family found the painting in a safe

'Jacob’s Ladder' by Marc Chagall.
Jaime Edelstein

A famous painting by Marc Chagall, which was stolen from a Tel Aviv gallery in 1996 and found 19 years later, will be sold at auction on Saturday in central Israel.

“Jacob’s Ladder,” measuring only 22 by 27 cm., was stolen from the Gordon Gallery only a few days before it was meant to be auctioned off, and police never found the thief. Amon Yariv, the gallery’s owner and the son of Yeshayahu Yariv, the gallery’s founder, says the theft was very unusual and the owner of the painting who had entrusted it to the gallery was compensated.

For 19 years, no one knew what had happened to the painting. Then, in 2015, a woman in Jerusalem died, and her family found the painting in a safe, with no clue on how she had acquired it.

A relative took it to an art appraiser in Jerusalem, where he learned it might be very valuable. When he subsequently approached the Comite Marc Chagall in Paris to confirm that it was indeed a Chagall work, he learned it had been stolen.

When the discovery was revealed, the insurance company, part of the Migdal group, which had paid the original owner, claimed ownership of the painting. Late in 2015, the Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court assigned ownership to the insurance company, which is now auctioning off the work at the Tiroche Auction House in Herzliya Pituah.

The painting depicts the biblical scene from Genesis 28, in which Jacob, who is fleeing from his brother Esau, dreams of angels going up and down a ladder leading to heaven. It was painted during the 1970s. The auction house estimates it will fetch around $130,000 to $180,000.

Marc Chagall (1887-1985) was a Jewish surrealistic artist who was born in Belarus and worked in several countries, most prominently Russia and France. He is considered one of the most important painters of the 20th century, and his works are displayed in museums all over the world.

His most famous work in Israel is the Chagall windows at the synagogue of Hadassah-University Hospital in Jerusalem, which depict the 12 tribes. He also designed wall tapestries and a wall mosaic for the Chagall State Hall in the Knesset that depict scenes from Jewish history, as well as mosaics for the hall’s floor.