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‘Jacob’s Ladder,’ a Chagall stolen from Tel Aviv gallery in 1996, is up for sale

When Amihai Hazan Tiroche will be picks up his hammer on January 25, the third-generation art auctioneer will be selling dozens of Israeli artworks, including a long-missing Chagall oil depicting the biblical Jacob and the angels’ ladder of his dreams.

The 22×27 centimeter (8.7×10.6 inch) depiction of the biblical story was painted by Chagall in deep, dramatic colors around 1973, when Israel was fighting and then recovering from the Yom Kippur War.

“It was a tiny one, it was easy to steal,” said Hazan Tiroche.

Chagall’s “Jacob’s Ladder” was stolen from Tel Aviv’s Gordon Gallery in 1996, four days before an auction at which it was slated to be sold. It remained missing until fairly recently, when a Jerusalem family reported finding it unexpectedly in their mother’s storage room after she died.

Shaya Yariv, the owner of the Gordon Gallery, said the painting had been displayed prominently when the gallery opened on Friday morning. But 20 minutes later, when a visitor asked directions to the Chagall, the only thing visible was a bent nail where the picture had hung.

The 16-by-18-inch painting, a red, blue and gray representation of two figures on a ladder leading from a village into a red sky, is said to be worth between $140,000 and $180,000 in 1996.

The painting was to be auctioned at the same day when it was stolen.

The artwork it could draw now as much as $400,000 to $600,000.

The woman’s family reportedly knew nothing about the painting’s existence, but once it was identified, verified, and handed over to an insurance company, it arrived at Tiroche, a family-run auction house in Herzliya Pituah that often finds itself handling items with murky histories.

Tiroche now has an online auction every two weeks, drawing some younger collectors and buyers, who start small.

The larger sales bring in well-known names, including oligarchs, Israeli CEOS, and other people of means who can buy a $100,000 painting without any trouble, said Hazan Tiroche.

The website offers the entire catalog, each artwork photographed and put online for buyers from the US, Australia, Hong Kong and elsewhere.

Header: Amihai Hazan Tiroche with the long-missing Marc Chagall painting, ‘Jacob’s Ladder,’ which will be auctioned on January 25, 2020 at the Tiroche Auction House (Jessica Steinberg/Times of Israel)