SARASOTA, Fla. (FOX 13) - A 30-year mystery may have finally been solved after a missing piece of artwork, valued at thousands of dollars, turned up during an estate sale.
The discovery is thanks to a dealer with a keen eye, who was in the right place at the right time.
Eric Bowyer is always after a good deal or a rare find.
"I call myself Eric the garage sale hunter," he said. "I do a route and I go all around town."
He has a good track record. Bowyer has picked up potential Dali and Van Gohn paintings to name a few.
"It's a bit of this low and high, a bit of a roller coaster ride," he said.
One weekend, while visiting an estate sale in Sarasota, a painting on a palette drew his eye.
"I reached down and looked at the signature and identified it," he said. "I was like, 'Wow, John Corbino.' I looked at the price it was $25."
John Corbino was an Italian artist known for his 1930s and '40s romantic realism paintings.
"I started googling and finding out about how he may have dealt in his artwork," he said.
As Bowyer worked to uncover its history, he received a phone call from Corbino's daughter.
"She said, 'I have to tell you that that painting was stolen,'" he said.
It had been missing since 1991, taken from the Fine Arts Society of Sarasota's collection at the Van Wezel.
"Immediately I said, 'I have to get this back to them,'" said Bowyer.
The news took the society by surprise.
"Such excitement, such a thrill to see this," said Vern Weitz, the president of the Fine Arts Society of Sarasota.
Who took the painting is still a mystery. Weitz said there's a number of theories out there, but those closest to it have passed away.
"We think It went missing during one of the concerts as people were exiting with all the excitement; pushing, shoving and all of that. That’s what we have always assumed, but we have no idea," said Weitz.
The artwork, called "The Palette," will hang once more at the Van Wezel as one of Sarasota's biggest art mysteries comes to a close.
"They asked me if I wanted a reward and I said, 'Of course not," Bowyer said. "My reward is just to be able to give this back.”
"The Palette" will be on display at the Van Wezel on Tuesday, March 5 at 10 a.m. during a docent-led art tour.
The tour fee is being waived in honor of the Society's 50th anniversary.
For more information visit https://www.fineartsrq.com/.