A forgotten, long-lost portrait of a young Jackie Kennedy has been found in the East Hamptons.
It is believed the work was stolen in the late 1960s from Grey Gardens, the notorious home of Jackie’s eccentric aunt and cousin “Big Edie” Beale and her daughter “Little Edie.” Jackie’s family is suing to get the portrait back, The New York Post reports.
The painting of the 19-year-old Jacqueline Bouvier, done in 1950, is the work of artist Irwin Hoffman. The portrait was commissioned by Jackie’s father, John Vernou Bouvier III, also known as “Black Jack,” who later bequeathed the work to his sister, Big Edie.
According to Janet & Jackie, a book about the future First Lady and her mother, Jackie’s father commissioned the painting after she fell in a horse-riding accident and spent several days unconscious. A scar from the accident can be seen in the painting.
The art work may have been stolen in 1968. After Big Edie and her daughter attended the “debut” of a friend’s daughter, they returned to Grey Gardens to discover they’d been robbed of $15,000 worth of property, New York Magazine reported in 1972.
In 2004, Eva Beale, the wife of Little Edie’s nephew, Bouvier Beale Jr, spotted a painting of Jackie at the Wallace Gallery in East Hampton, but owner, Terry Wallace, wouldn’t identify who he bought it from.
In 2016, Beales reignited their efforts to retrieve the painting after they discovered a Hamptons Magazine article published in 1998 about the portrait in Little Edie’s belongings.
The family wants the artwork back and is “seeking justice and wants to reclaim this important piece of its legacy,” said lawyer Megan Noh.
Wallace told The Post: “I got the painting 30 years ago from a very reputable art and antiques dealer. I can’t give you the name but I can only tell you they were reputable. They were in the Hamptons and the painting came with a very good title. It has a very good provenance.”
When asked if the Beale family was in the chain of ownership, Wallace said, “It didn’t come from those people.”
“If the painting was stolen I would cheerfully and gladly return it to the right owner, but that’s not the case. The Beale family insist they own this painting but there’s no evidence of that,” he said.
“I’ve helped the FBI solve cases. I don’t think they would come to me if I were a dishonest person. … If someone came to me with the proof I would turn the painting over to them because I have a responsibility. I’m not interested in dealing in any stolen merchandise.”
“I think they should have come to me and just tried to buy the painting from me. They tried to steal it now. That’s how I think of it,” he added.
Noh said Wallace’s reluctance to make the painting’s chain of ownership clear was unusual because “such information is regularly provided even to potential buyers undertaking due diligence prior to a purchase.”