Los Angeles County authorities are questioning the authenticity and ownership of a Rembrandt sketch reported stolen from the lobby of a seaside hotel and then recovered several days later.
Sheriff's investigators won't return the pen-and-ink drawing until they can verify it was the work of the Dutch master, department spokesman Steve Whitmore told the Los Angeles Times (http://lat.ms/qNxftU). He said the Linearis Institute has yet to provide proof of ownership of the piece, which it claims to be worth $250,000.
He said those questions take priority over the theft investigation.
"Most important now is who owns it, and what is it that they own," Whitmore said.
The institute, based in the San Francisco Bay area community of Hercules, was hosting an auction at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Marina del Rey when the framed artwork was reported stolen on Aug. 13. It mysteriously surfaced two days later at a church in the San Fernando Valley.
The Times said several experts on Rembrandt's work were unfamiliar with the piece called "The Judgment," which the institute said was completed around 1655 and signed on the back by Rembrandt van Rijn.
An attorney for Linearis insisted that the institute owns the sketch and has taken steps to verify its authenticity. He said the institute may seek a court order to have it returned.
Information from: Los Angeles Times, http://www.latimes.com