Turkey Arrests 2 for 'Smuggling Van Dyck Painting'

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Turkey Arrests 2 for 'Smuggling Van Dyck Painting'

Considered one of the greatest portraitists of all time, Van Dyck completed some 800 paintings before his death at the age of 42 in 1641. (AFP photo)

Istanbul, Turkey:  Turkish authorities have detained two people who were caught smuggling a painting which experts suspect is by the 17th century Flemish artist Anthony van Dyck, reports said Sunday.

The Hurriyet newspaper said authorities had seized the artwork in Istanbul after two businessmen attempted to sell it to undercover Turkish police officers for 14 million lira ($4.6 million, 4.2 million euros).

The two men had reportedly bought the painting from a criminal gang for $200,000. They were arrested at the luxury hotel in Istanbul's historic Topkapi neighbourhood where they had tried to make the sale, Hurriyet said.

Turkish anti-smuggling authorities released a photograph of a seized painting -- depicting a topless woman with her arms raised and two other figures -- without giving details of its provenance.

But Hurriyet said that based on an analysis by Istanbul art experts, authorities believe the work is a lost original by Van Dyck, potentially worth millions of dollars.

Russia's Interfax news agency reported Saturday that the painting had hung on the wall of a family in Georgia for 15 years but they had no idea that it may have been a missing work by an Old Master.

A woman named Eka Abashidze told Georgia's Imedi TV channel that her family decided to sell the painting in 2010 after falling into financial difficulties, according to Interfax.

Two men had promised to pay the family $37,000, but they tricked them and only ended up paying $7,000.

Considered one of the greatest portraitists of all time, Van Dyck completed some 800 paintings before his death at the age of 42 in 1641.

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