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Hobcaw Barony: Antiques Roadshow prompts tips on stolen art

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

A tip came in to the Belle W. Baruch Foundation this week that led to the discovery of a painting by Alfred J. Munnings. But it wasn’t the painting George Chastain, the foundation director, was looking for.

“It wasn’t ours,” he said.

The theft of six paintings and seven Audubon prints from Hobcaw Barony nearly a decade ago was featured on a segment of the popular PBS program “Antiques Roadshow” this week. It highlighted an oil painting by Munnings of Belle Baruch and her horse, Souriant, that is valued at $1 million.

“We got some tips on the art, but nothing that proved to be anything,” Chastain said.

But he continues to have faith that the artwork will be found and thinks the Roadshow broadcast, with an estimated audience of 10 million, and information on the show’s website will help.

The segment was filmed in June, and producers said at the time they had some new information about the theft, which was reported in July 2003. But there was no new information, Chastain said.

He was featured in the segment along with Linda Keene, a retired FBI agent who investigated the case, and Debra Force, a gallery owner from New York.

The theft was reported by the former curator, Samuel McIntosh, on his last day of work after he was fired. Criminal charges were later filed against McIntosh after a search of his home in Kingstree discovered art and other items that belonged to the foundation, including a painting valued at $12,000 that he had reported missing.

McIntosh received a suspended sentence and probation for filing a false police report, according to court records.

Before Monday’s broadcast “we hadn’t heard anything in years,” Chastain said.

Some tips were from people who reported seeing something like the painting of Baruch and her horse. The foundation has received other requests for information about Belle and her father, Bernard Baruch. “It’s getting our name out there, raising awareness of the history of the place,” Chastain said.

Since the theft, the values of the works have increased from early estimates of around $1 million to over $2 million. That’s the kind of thing visitors to the “Antiques Roadshow” hope to hear. But Chastain said it isn’t the value of the art that’s important to the foundation.

“We’re interested in recovering these pieces because they help us tell the story of Hobcaw Barony,” he said.

Three paintings by Munnings are valued at $1.5 million. Three paintings of Hobcaw by Louis Aston Knight at valued at a total of $3,000 to $10,500.

The seven Audubon bird prints are valued at $605,000, with a print of a male wild turkey valued at $200,000. A segment about those works that wasn’t broadcast is available at the show’s website .

The foundation is still offering a $25,000 reward for information that leads to the recovery of the works.

“I think they will be found,” Chastain said.

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