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Image: “Tres Personajes”
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“I know nothing of modern art but it didn’t seem right for any piece of art to be discarded like that,” Elizabeth Gibson said after finding “Tres Personajes.”
updated 10/23/2007 10:25:29 AM ET 2007-10-23T14:25:29

A painting stolen more than 20 years ago was found lying in trash along a street, and now it could fetch up to $1 million at an auction.

Elizabeth Gibson didn’t know anything about the brightly colored work she spotted on her morning walk four years ago on Manhattan’s upper West Side, but she said she took it home because “it had a strange power.”

“I know nothing of modern art but it didn’t seem right for any piece of art to be discarded like that,” Gibson told the Sotheby’s auction house.

It turned out that it was a 1970 painting by Mexican artist Rufino Tamayo, titled “Tres Personajes” (Three People), and had been stolen more than 20 years ago.

Gibson said she learned of the work’s worth when her research led her to the Web site of “Antiques Roadshow FYI,” a companion program to the PBS show “Antiques Roadshow.”

Sotheby’s expert August Uribe had featured the painting on “Antiques Roadshow FYI” after it was stolen.

Sotheby’s says “Tres Personajes” is an important work that represents the artist’s mature period.

The painting was returned to the original owners, who wish to remain anonymous.

The New York Times said the couple paid $55,000 for it. Sotheby’s says it could bring up to $1 million when it is sold at its Latin American Art auction on Nov. 20.

© 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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