Painted lady finds a refuge

HER owners remain a mystery but at least she finally has a home.

A two-year search for the owners of a mysterious Norman Lindsay artwork has failed but the voluptuous nude will be given a home at the Wagga Art Gallery.

Woman with Satyr was found gathering dust in the vaults of the NSW art gallery in 2010. The police force had loaned her to the gallery in 1980.

With scant details of her origin and no record of how she came into police custody, detectives set about solving the decades-long cold case.

Much of the oil painting’s colourful past came to light yet police say they will never know the true owner.

An exhibit officer from the former Criminal Investigation Bureau — responsible for securing drugs, firearms and property at an old hat factory in Surry Hills — left her with the gallery.

Peter Chilton, now 81 and living at Bellingen on the NSW north coast, said he believed she was seized during an eastern suburbs break-and-enter investigation led by the legendary late detective Herb Talarico, who was involved in the arrest of the infamous bank robber and prison escapee Darcy Dugan.

Mr Chilton sent the painting to the gallery to protect it from a tobacco beetle infestation and it was then forgotten about for 30 years.

Detective Tim Axtens spoke to family of the late Albert Jewell, a Vaucluse collector whose name was found on the back of the painting, but it’s believed he had sold it before he died in 1963.

So with no known owner, police have loaned the painting to NSW galleries for 12-month stints.

Wagga manager Stephen Payne, is delighted his gallery was chosen.

“It’s a beautiful Linsday, almost a classic,” he said. “We wish we could keep her for a bit longer but it’s a wonderful she’s being shared around.”

A plaque will explain her mystery history.

“That’s part of the charm really,” he said.

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