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Leonardo da Vinci

Buccleuch family Leonardo found

Ninth Duke did not live to see his painting returned

Leonardo’s Madonna of the Yarnwinder was recovered on 4 October, following its theft four years ago from Drumlanrig Castle, in Dumfriesshire, Scotland. Sadly, the ninth Duke of Buccleuch died just a month before the recovery, on 5 September. A year earlier, the 82-year-old duke had written to The Art Newspaper about the temporary loss of the painting in Italy during World War II, saying that “I can only hope that it will be retrieved a second time without a scratch and preferably before I fall off my perch!” (July 2006, p15).

Police recovered the Leonardo from the office of Glasgow lawyers HBJ Gateley Wareing. Four men were charged in Dumfries the day after the recovery with conspiracy to rob and extort money: Calum Jones, Marshall Ronald, Robert Graham and John Doyle. The first two are solicitors and the other two are private theft recoverers.

Although the attribution of Madonna of the Yarnwinder is questioned by some scholars, if fully accepted, it might be worth over £50m. An insurance payment of £3.2m was made to the duke’s family after the theft, but this is expected to be returned in exchange for full title to the picture.

The tenth Duke says that he is “determined that the painting should once again go on public view”, at Drumlanrig. The picture is to be fully examined by conservators at the National Gallery of Scotland, but it appears to have survived in good condition.