A painting by the Venetian master Tintoretto, missing since Russian troops stole it from East Germany during World War II, was recovered yesterday by FBI agents acting on a tip.
An undercover agent posing as an art expert arrested an Israeli dealer who was trying to sell the painting in Manhattan's Westbury Hotel.
The Tintoretto, "The Holy Family With Saint Catherine and Honored Donor," was stolen along with many other works of art from Dresden's treasure horde of the Dukes of Saxony during World War II.
According to assistant U.S. attorney Eugene N. Kaplan, the FBI learned that the painting was for sale about five weeks ago. The Israeli suspect, Rajmond Vinokur of Tel Aviv, was in New York on a tourist visa and had recently smuggled the painting from Europe during one of his frequent crossings, Kaplan said.
He added that Vinokur, who speaks only Hebrew and Russian, was trying to sell the 3-by-5-foot painting for $250,000. The FBI said it was valued at twice that.
When the FBI agent was convinced the painting was the original, he called in a backup team. The suspect offered no resistance. He will be arraigned today on a charge of transporting stolen property.
The Tintoretto was listed in a compilation of missing treasures, "War Damages and War Losses of the Dresden Museum," printed in 1965.
Kaplan said he has discussed the recovery with East German representatives in New York who said they would like the painting returned to Dresden.
FBI agent Kenneth Walton said the painting was brought to the hotel by automobile, adding that it was mounted on a wooden frame and protected by plastic. It depicts a madonna and child. St. Catherine and an unidentified man who commissioned the work.
Tintoretto, whose real name was Jacopo Robusti, was born in Venice in 1518, and died there in 1594. He first earned his keep painting furniture in the stalls in St. Marks Square, and though Titian disapproved of him, became one of the Venetion Republic's most influential artists. Four of his eight children -- Giovanni Battista, Marietta, Marco and Domenico -- became painters and worked in his studio, which produced paintings into the 17th century.
Last year the East Germans sent an exhibit including works from five centuries of Dresden's treasures to Washington, where they were exhibited at the National Gallery of Art and later toured other cities.