Children under a Palm Tree Painting - A mother fights for Justice


In 2009, Selina and her father packed their case and headed off to New York. The Painting was going up for sale at Sotheby’s. Everything was in place, the picture was ready, and all the catalogues had been sent out weeks before. There shouldn’t have been a problem. But then out of the blue, Selina received a phone call.

Somehow, there had been a claim on the Painting!

The descendants of Sir Henry Arthur Blake, who was a British Colonial administrator, back in the 19th Century, stated that the painting was of Sir Henry’s children, so therefore the painting still belonged to them!

Evidently they claim that it had been in their family for generations, and had been stolen years ago. Homer had Painted the picture when they had all met up abroad. Homer had then given their descendants the Painting as a gift. But the only trouble was that when the relatives were interviewed they kept coming up with a different story.

Lies and More Lies

On searching for the history of the painting, Sotheby’s had managed to find the Blake family, and explained to them about the find. At this point, Sotheby’s had been in contact with Mrs. Blake, and she was told about the Painting. She had also been given the Auction Catalogue which shows clearly the Painting and the sale price. She was very surprised to hear about it. And at the beginning, the family were not interested in the Painting. They explained that they had no record of a burglary, and no recollection of the actual work. Nobody had ever reported it missing, and in fact they hadn’t even known of its existence.

While Sotheby’s stated that they had let the Blakes know about the painting, and they had no objection to the sale, the Blakes had then decided weeks later that actually they did know it had been stolen and were interested in what was happening. Even worse, they claim that nobody had got in touch with them about it, and the first that they knew about the Painting was when Mrs. Blake had seen it in the newspaper in the States! She was on holiday, and just happened to find it when she was looking for something in the said paper! In other words, it was just a coincidence that she happened to be there at the same time as the sale. In other words she was calling Sotheby’s a liar.

Then came the biggest bombshell. They wanted to sell the painting and give Selina just 25 percent of the proceeds.

Selina refused the offer. She was then told that she could sell it, and sort out the problem after the sale. 10 minutes before the painting was sold, she was called to the office and told that it had been withdrawn! Without an injuction, without any form off proof, the other party had stopped the sale!

Simon Murray, Sir Henry’s great great grandson, gave an interview on camera stating that actually yes they did know of it, and refused to budge on the issue. When asked why he wanted to sell the painting, he stated that, ‘Myrtle Grove, the family house needs a lot of renevating and we need the money for that’! He then went on to make an insulting remark about Selina and her family. He states, ‘ I feel sorry for her, I really do, I know she wanted the money for a swimming pool or loads of cars’!

This man, who comes from a family that is so wealthy they can jet of around the world just when they feel like it, belittles Selina, who is a kind and loving mother. But Selina held onto her dignity by not responding. Not only is Simon rich, he is also a lawyer. Therefore he knows exactly how to handle the case.

After the sale was stopped, Selina and her family spend the next year trying every way to get Justice. She has even been visited by the Police, who claim she may be prosecuted for theft!

Just over a year later, the Blake family allege that they have found documents, letters that mention the party that the children had gone too, and the description of the clothes they were wearing in the Painting. This, say the Blakes is irrefutable proof that the painting is theirs.

They stated that as it was a family piece then it should automatically come back to the family.

The Outcome

Sadly, there isn’t any change on the horizon. Selina and her father, have been offered 25 per cent of the sale, and the rest of the money is to go to the Drakes. That of course is what would happen if Selina agreed.

But she didn’t. As she states,’ If we hadn’t found the painting, it would have been ruined within a couple of days, or even a few hours. We saved it. They knew nothing about it.’

The case is still going on nearly three years after the first visit to the Antique Roadshow. .

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