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Titian masterpiece once found at London bus stop could sell for $32 million

By Jack Guy, CNN

London (CNN) — A twice-stolen painting by Italian Renaissance master Titian, which was once found in a plastic bag at a bus stop in London, is expected to fetch as much as $32 million at auction in July.

“The Rest on the Flight into Egypt” is going under the hammer at Christie’s with an estimate of £15 million-£25 million ($19 million-$32 million), according to a statement from the auction house.

The painting depicts Jesus, Mary and Joseph resting on their way to Egypt after learning that Herod, King of Judea, wanted to kill the young Christ.

Titian, whose real name was Tiziano Vecellio, made the work in the first decade of the 16th century, at the beginning of his career.

Measuring just 18.25 inches by 24.75 inches (46.2 centimeters x 62.9 centimeters), the painting is tiny compared with some of the massive works for which Titian became known later in his life.

The oil-on-canvas work has a remarkable history.

After changing hands among various European aristocrats, the painting was looted by Napoleonic troops during the French occupation of Vienna in 1809 and taken to Paris.

It was returned to Vienna in 1815 and again moved through private collections before ending up with John Alexander Thynne, 4th Marquess of Bath, in Wiltshire, England.

In 1995, it was stolen from Longleat, the home of Thynne’s descendants, and disappeared for seven years, before it was found at a bus stop in London by art detective Charles Hill.

“This is a painting, then, that has been coveted by aristocrats, archdukes and emperors alike: prized for its vividly coloured scene of familial affection within the natural world,” Christie’s said in the statement.

“Like its subjects, The Rest on the Flight into Egypt has been on a long and eventful journey — a journey that’s far from over.”

The painting will be offered as part of the Old Masters Part I auction at Christie’s in London on July 2.

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