It had been due to be offered at Duke’s of Dorchester in November last year. However, at the last minute a Duke’s specialist realised that the screen may be the one taken from York and it was withdrawn from auction pending further investigation.
The vendor was unaware of the panel’s history, having inherited it recently from a relative, but they were happy to return the painting once its provenance was revealed.
Duke’s worked with Art Loss Register which researched the panel and confirmed it was the missing c.1480 Nuremberg School artefact.
The panel was one of a pair which were donated to the gallery by the prominent collector, FD Lycett Green in 1955. Both had been on permanent display for the majority of time between their donation until the theft.
It depicts St Nicholas of Bari, St James of Tarentaise and St Germanus of Paris on one side with St Lawrence, St Sebald of Nuremberg and the Angel Gabriel on the other. It will now be checked by a conservator before it is reunited with its sister panel in York.
York Art Gallery senior curator Morgan Feely said: "The theft may have been over 40 years ago, but it is an important part of our collection, and it is fantastic that this panel can be reunited with its pair. Once we have checked and conserved the panel, we will be displaying both pieces at York Art Gallery, where they belong to be enjoyed and shared with others. We are extremely grateful to the Art Loss Register, Duke's Auctioneers and the consignor for reuniting us with this artwork."
Lucy O’Meara, recoveries specialist at the ALR, said: “We are thrilled that the panel will be returned to York Art Gallery. Three members of the ALR team studied at the University of York at one point or another and so we have fond memories of the gallery’s collection and the wider city. It was a pleasure assisting in this case on a pro-bono basis.”