Museum Security Network

NSW, Australia: So what 'ave we got 'ere?

So what ‘ave we got ‘ere?

Les Kennedy

September 5, 2010

Revelation … Norman Lindsay’s oil on canvas Woman with Satyr.

The NSW Art Gallery is perplexed by the story of a Norman Lindsay painting with mysterious police links.

The oil on canvas, entitled Woman with Satyr, was discovered in the archives of the gallery this month.

Archivists were baffled on finding the semi nude as there were scant historic details as to its origin and date. All they could confirm was that it had been loaned to the gallery in 1980 and was the property of the NSW Police Force, whose then commissioner was James Lees.

The discovery has also come as a surprise to NSW Police, who were asked whether they wanted the painting back.

An investigation of the police property register has since found no record of the painting being owned by the force or how it came to be in its possession 30 years ago.

The only clue as to a previous owner is the name ”A. Jewell” on the back of the canvas and ”Vaucluse”.

Police said a check revealed that a family by that name had lived in the harbour suburb but cannot be found.

A family with a similar surname was located in Dover Heights but knew nothing of the painting.

A senior police spokesman said: ”It’s a mystery. We don’t know if it was bequeathed to the force by someone in gratitude for an act of bravery or was seized among stolen goods.

”We are appealing for anyone who knows anything about this painting to contact police.”

Gallery spokeswoman Claire Martin said: ”It’s hard to imagine this painting hanging in the office of the Commissioner of Police.”

In 1974, a Norman Lindsay painting entitled Maiden with Satyr, bearing a close resemblance to Woman with Satyr was put up for auction at the Geoff K. Gray gallery in Rosebery.

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