stolen painting

Someone walked off with this painting by William Preston Phelps, circa 1900, appraised at more than $7,500, during an estate sale over the weekend at the home of Tyler and Ann Resch in North Bennington. Tyler Resch is a historian and the former editor of the Banner.

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BENNINGTON — Art theft is not a crime often reported in the Bennington area, but that’s what occurred toward the end of a two-day estate sale at the home of Tyler and Ann Resch.

The well-known North Bennington residents are in the process of selling their home and have moved into the Brookdale Fillmore Pond independent and assisted-living village. They retained Tracy Stevens and Jake Geannelis, of Crow Hill Estate Sale Co., to hold the well-attended sale on Friday and Saturday at the couple’s Cold Spring Road home.

“We had a big estate sale, run by a couple of great guys, Tracy Stevens and Jake Geannelis, who went out of the way to organize and promote it, including dozens of Facebook photos,” Tyler Resch said Tuesday. “Probably 450 people came and bought up about 80 percent of what was offered.”

He added, “It was a really friendly sale and went successfully, except that at one of the last moments on Saturday, the most valuable item was stolen.”

Resch, who was not present at the time of the theft, said the item stolen was “a painting by the prominent New Hampshire landscapist William Preston Phelps, circa 1900, for which we were asking $7,500, a figure that my appraiser, Barbara Sussman, recommended; in fact, she placed it at between $7,500 to $8,500.”

POLICE NOTIFIED

Stevens and Geannelis reported the theft to their insurance company, Resch said, and to Vermont State Police. Sussman, of Fog Hill & Co. Inc., spread word of the theft through an international network focusing on stolen artworks.

Resch is an historian and author and a former librarian at the Bennington Museum library, as well as a former editor of the Bennington Banner during the 1960s and 1970s.

Stevens said Wednesday that the theft was discovered during a meeting with Resch at the house on Sunday morning. The house had been locked overnight, he said, and it’s believed someone made off with the painting Saturday afternoon, while he was assisting a customer loading furniture into a vehicle or talking with the people who are purchasing the Resch property.

“My heart just sank,” Stevens said.

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He said his company’s insurer has confirmed the painting would be covered, but the amount paid won’t be known until the firm conducts its own appraisal, and there is an insurance deductible with the policy.

“At the end of the day, I just wish we could get this family heirloom back to [Resch],” Geannelis said.

DIFFICULT TO SELL

Geannelis added that the thief will find it difficult to sell the painting, as word has spread through the area on social media and internationally on websites warning of stolen art.

The best course for the person or people, he said, would be to drop the painting off anonymously where it can be safely recovered.

The business owners said they have a small, two-person company and only took it full-time this year after operating part-time for a number of years.

“We go in, and we really try to help people; that’s what started this whole business,” Stevens said.

“Our sales have become like community events,” attracting many of the same people each time, he said, adding that they enjoy helping families close an estate or, as with Tyler and Ann Resch, downsize into a more easily managed residence.

SECURITY SYSTEM

Stevens and Geannelis said it is likely their small company will suffer a financial loss because of the theft. They also now will acquire a camera and alarm security system for future estate sales, including alarms that sound when someone tries to move expensive artwork or other items.

Jim Therrien writes for Vermont News and Media, including the Bennington Banner, Manchester Journal and Brattleboro Reformer. Email jtherrien@benningtonbanner.com

Reporter/editor

Jim Therrien reports for the three Vermont News and Media newspapers in Southern Vermont. He previously worked as a reporter and editor at the Berkshire Eagle, the Bennington Banner, the Springfield Republican, and the former North Adams Transcript.


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