Possession is nine parts of the law.
The town of Gardner, in MA, is selling a Norman Rockwell painting, gifted by the man himself to a former school principal:
“In the 1950s, The Boston Globe reports, Gardner High School principal F. Earl Williams visited Rockwell at his Vermont studio and inquired about buying one of his paintings as a gift for that year’s senior class. After some resistance, Rockwell showed the principal around his studio and gave him “Willie Gillis in Convoy” for free.
The painting hung in the school principal’s office until 2001, when officials, mindful of the skyrocketing value of Rockwell’s work, had the painting appraised and then put away for safekeeping.”
So who actually owns the painting? I would have thought “that year’s senior class”. So why was it kept in the Principal’s office? Was it given to him, personally? Did he give it to the school? In a more honest age, did he assume that it should stay with the school after he retired?
I can imagine a few lawyers chasing this ambulance: a fee of 30% of $25 million is worth a bit of work, getting the ex-pupils, their families, the Principal’s families and the Union of School Cleaners and Polishers (this is Massachusetts) on board.
Mary O’Reilly will remember her poor widowed mother, who cleaned “that precious picture” every day at 3:30 pm, for her beloved Gardner School. With a tear in her eye, she can be relied upon to tell how tales of that picture inspired her to draw, and her son Joey inherited her talent. He learned to paint in jail, after being framed (like the painting) for that Charlestown job…
Let’s face it, the current and recent staff and alumni of that august educational establishment will have had zero interest in the picture. And for the last 13 years they have had zero view.
The remaining cash will go into the “educational endowment”, where it will disappear “for the kids.”