Saint-Cirq-Lapopie by Henri Jean Guillaume Martin (1860-1943) appeared at Sworders' (20% buyer's premium) Country House sale in Stansted Mountfitchet on March 10 estimated at £80,000-100,000.
It was the top lot in the sale although it was knocked down to a Turkish bidder on the phone at the lower end of expectations. The complicated back story may have limited demand even though it was offered with full title.
The picture had previously sold at Sotheby's New York in November 1988 when it had fetched $125,000 (£69,625).
It was stolen from a house in Kings Langley in September 2012 while the property was undergoing renovation. The thieves forced entry via the back of the house during the night and took this painting along with a number of other items.
The picture then surfaced the following year in Canada. After information that it was being offered for sale was handed to Art Recovery International, the firm followed their established company policy and notified UK police. They aided the investigation by offering them access to all their relevant case files.
The work then disappeared for another year until a London art dealer contacted ArtClaim (Art Recovery's online platform and database for registering stolen art) in November regarding a painting he had purchased from a 'picker'.
He bought the work in good faith at what he believed at the time was a keen price for a picture attributed to Henri Martin.
However, a colleague in the trade who was invited to view the picture recognised it from a stolen advert placed by the insurance underwriter in ATG in September 2013.
The painting was promptly identified on the ArtClaim database and, with the full cooperation of the London dealer whose due diligence was admirable given the financial loss incurred, Art Recovery International sought clearance to take possession of the painting on behalf of the insurance company who had settled the Hertfordshire owner's claim at the time of theft.
The recovery firm secured the picture's 'unconditional release' and gained confirmation from the Metropolitan and Hertfordshire police that the painting was no longer subject to an active investigation before it was consigned to Sworders.
Art Recovery International recoveries and claims director Alice Farren-Bradley said: "Too many cases are obstructed by parties that are unwilling to share information or step forward when they have a concern. This case demonstrates the effectiveness of collaboration between law enforcement and the art market in recovering stolen works of art."
The picture itself, a 3ft 7in x 2ft 11in (1.1m x 88cm) oil on canvas, is one of a series of views the artist painted of the picturesque village of Saint-Cirq-Lapopie overlooking the Lot valley in central France. Martin bought a house there in 1912.