A painting by Eramus Quelliness II stolen more than four decades ago was recently returned to its owner after being spotted at a regional auction house in a southern French town.

Chatsworth House in the English town of Derbyshire had lent A Double Portrait of Sir Peter Paul Rubens and Sir Anthony Van Dyck (1640s) to the Towner Art Gallery for an exhibition focused on works by Anthony Van Dyck, a Flemish Baroque artist.

The oil on wood painting was taken by thieves on May 26, 1979 after a “smash and grab” raid on the gallery’s exhibition. The burglars left several original drawings by Van Dyck that had also been on display and were much more valuable. (Christie’s sold a Van Dyck drawing for $2.1 million in February.)

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“Some of the priceless drawings were left and they took this which I suppose looked more expensive,” Alice Martin, head of the Devonshire collections at Chatsworth House, told The Art Newspaper, which first reported the news Friday.

The painting was originally painted in preparation for an engraving and not for display on a wall. After the theft in 1979, it was assumed lost. An art historian spotted A Double Portrait of Sir Peter Paul Rubens and Sir Anthony Van Dyck listed for sale in Toulon, France, and alerted the British country house.

According to The Art Newspaper, the painting was found in the seller’s late parent’s house in the southeast English town of Eastbourne before it was sent to Toulon for sale.

Restoration work included repairing paint that had flaked off and the removable of nicotine stains.

A Double Portrait of Sir Peter Paul Rubens and Sir Anthony Van Dyck is now back on display at Chatsworth after three years of negotiation, including delays due to the Covid-19 pandemic.