Enjoy unlimited access: just £1 for 12 weeks

Subscribe now

The theft was carried out during pre-sale viewing on the afternoon of March 29 by two men who forced open the locked glass cabinet where the picture was on display. The theft was not noticed until the two men (who were filmed by surveillance cameras) had left the building.

Tête de Fillette, a 8 x 6 1/4in (20.5 x 16cm) oil, had recently been authenticated by the Wildenstein Institute.

The theft at Tajan came just days after a work ascribed to the Swiss artist Cuno Amiet, due to be sold by Marc-Arthur Kohn on March 25, was impounded at Drouot.

Greti à l'Ombrelle c.1908, 13 x 16in (33 x 41cm), is believed to show Amiet’s niece with a parasol, and was estimated at €500,000 (£350,000).

It was impounded after fellow auctioneer, Olivier Doutrebente, recognized it as a picture stolen from his étude in 1999.

Amazingly, the work had been sold unnoticed at Drouot in 2003 after being consigned by a Drouot employee, fetching just €6000 at Drouot Estimations, who ascribed it to a minor artist, Roger Grillon.

The employee has been suspended pending results of a judicial inquiry.

In 2003 the work was presented without a monogram which, claims Kohn, emerged during cleaning. The picture has been authenticated as an Amiet by the Institut Suisse in Zurich, and will appear in the forthcoming catalogue raisonné of his work.