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Spielberg sued for owning FBI wanted painting

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Oscar winning director Steven Spielberg is being sued for a portrait that he bought in good faith 18 years ago only to learn this year that it was on the FBI's list of the most-wanted stolen works.Spielberg is an avid collector of 20th-century American artist Norman Rockwell's work. However, he recently came to know that one of his most prized works by the artist - Russian Schoolroom - was stolen 34 years ago.

The oil painting, measuring 16 by 37 inches, was stolen from Arts International, a gallery in Missouri that was part of a chain of American galleries belonging to Jack Solomon in 1973. It disappeared until 1988, when it surfaced at an auction in New Orleans for 70,000 dollars. It then found its way into Spielberg's collection when he picked it up a year later from Rhode Island art dealer Judy Goffman Cutler for a reported 200,000 dollars, reports Times Online.

The painting, which is today valued at some 700,000 dollars, is now caught in two lawsuits. The first, in which Solomon is suing Spielberg and the FBI, has been filed in the Nevada federal court. Mr Solomon alleges that despite knowing that the painting, the FBI had allowed the 'Jaws' director to keep the painting. In the second lawsuit, Mr Solomon himself is being sued along with Art Loss Register (ALR), the British agency with an international database of 200,000 stolen artworks by Ms Cutler, the art dealer from whom Spielberg bought the painting.

Ms Cutler is suing Solomon for 25 million dollars because his allegations have caused her to lose Spielberg 'as a client' and has intensively damaged her reputation. Art Loss Register (ALR) was hired by Solomon to assist in recovering the painting. She maintains that she has acquired good title in the work and that Solomon's lost interest in the painting when his business went bankrupt in 1996. Mr Solomon however maintains he never gave up title to the work.

Spielberg's spokesman, Marvin Levy, in the meantime insists that the director is an 'innocent victim' in the case. "We are the innocent victim in all of this. [Steven] bought it in good faith," Times Online quoted Levy, as saying.

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