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Two paintings by Gottfried Lindauer were stolen from the International Art Centre in Parnell early on the morning of April 1.
The paintings were snatched by two men after their stolen vehicle reversed into the gallery’s street-side display window. They then fled in a different vehicle, a white Holden Commodore, driven by a third person. Police recovered the stolen vehicle near the scene.
The paintings, Chieftainess Ngatai-Raure and Chief Ngatai-Raure, are estimated to be worth between $350,000 and $450,000 each, and were on display at the International Art Centre before they were due to be auctioned last Tuesday.
Gottfried Lindauer painted the pieces in 1884, and they were sold to a private buyer late 2015 by previous owner Gow Langsford.
Lindauer was born in Bohemia in 1839 and arrived in New Zealand on August 6, 1874. His portraiture was influenced by trends in European art at the time and it was at the behest of his chief patron, Henry Partridge, that he painted numerous Māori leaders.
In an interview with Radio New Zealand in 2016 Ngahiraka Mason, who curated The Māori Portraits: Gottfried Lindauer’s New Zealand which included 120 works by Lindauer and just finished at Auckland Art Gallery on February 19, said “Lindauer was in a position where descendants were not. He met our ancestors.”
“Had he not have painted these we would be scrambling for that visual history in colour. We did not meet these people face to face, there are some living descendants who do have that memory […], but if not for photography we would not have their image, and if not for Lindauer we would not have their image in colour.”