A stolen painting, that was nicked from a New York gallery 60 years ago, turned up 3,300 miles away at an art gallery in Mawdesley.

The painting, by French post-impressionist Edouard-Leon Cortés, was one of 3,000 paintings stolen from the gallery over a 12-year period in the 1950s and 1960s.

The paintings were taken from the Arnot Gallery in New York City which was once the largest US importer of commercial European Art.

The daring heist of thousands of paintings was an inside job by a gallery employee.

Over the years the stolen artworks, worth more than $1 million, have been reappearing for sale at auction houses and galleries around the world.

This particular painting, titled Flower Market Madeleine, was being offered for sale this year by Carnes Fine Art, a dealer in Mawdesley.

Christopher A. Marinello, lawyer and founder of Art Recovery International, spent several months unwinding the sale.

He said: “We are very grateful to Bradley Carnes, Capes Dunn, and their vendor for releasing this stolen painting unconditionally to the Arnot Gallery.

“While in this instance, we were able to convince many of the parties to reimburse the other, eventually there will be those who are out of luck.

“I cannot stress enough the importance of performing due diligence and authentication checks which would have uncovered this stolen painting decades earlier."

In 1966, Louis Edelman, gallery manager and salesman for the Arnot Gallery, decided to leave his job there to open his own gallery nearby.

It was later discovered that during his tenure, Edelman was selling the gallery’s paintings and invoicing buyers in his own name.

The thief was eventually arrested by the FBI and convicted of transporting stolen artworks across state lines.

While Edelman was sentenced to two years in prison and given a $10,000 fine, most of the 3000 paintings were never recovered.

During the criminal trial, one gallery owner was questioned on whether he knew the paintings he was buying from Edelman were stolen. He said: “Well, not all of them.”

Marinello added: “Anyone buying or selling a painting by Edouard-Leon Cortés or Antoine Blanchard is advised to check with the Arnot Gallery for proper authentication.

“We have been recovering one or two pictures per year from this 60-year-old theft and we’re never going to give up until every last one is returned”.