Artwork Stolen From New Paltz Recovered by FBI After 50 Years

The case has finally been cracked in an art theft that happened in the Hudson Valley a half-century ago.

Back in 1972 two historic paintings were donated by a private owner to the Huguenot Historical Society in New Paltz. The depicted portraits Derrick Wynkoop and his wife Ann Eltinge. The Dutch couple was from the lineage of early Dutch settlers who made a new life in America, living in one of the famous Huguenot Street stone houses.

The portraits were painted by Ammi Phillips, a prolific 19th-century artist who is believed to have painted over 2,000 portraits. Although he had dabbled in many different styles, Phillips is most known for his paintings of people awkwardly set in front of plain backgrounds.

The grumpy-looking portraits were donated to the historical society by Marie Wiersum in December of 1971. Just two months later they were gone.

In February of 1972, the portraits were among several items that were stolen in a brazen theft. After they were discovered missing, a desperate search was conducted by members of the Huguenot Historical Society. Although they were able to locate most of the items a few weeks later, the two paintings were never recovered.

Fifty years later some super sleuths at the Huguenot Historical Society stumbled across proof that the portraits were still in existence. It was uncovered that the two paintings were listed at auction back in 2005. With help from the FBI, the historical society was able to track down the buyer who had no idea that the artwork was actually stolen.

With help from the FBI and cooperation from the auction winner, the long-lost pieces of stolen artwork. were recovered. After five decades, the portraits that were thought to be lost forever are now back where they belong in New Paltz.

Earlier this month, the FBI agents who assisted in finding the stolen paintings attended a ceremony in New Paltz to mark the return of the historic artwork. If you want to see them for yourself, a public unveiling of the portraits will take place this Sunday, June 26 at 2pm. Ticketholders can hear members of the Historical Society share stories about the paintings’ theft and recovery and get to see them displayed for the first time in 50 years.

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