The artwork, an oil painting by Danish artist Carl Vilhelm Holsøe, was sold by the website in 2016 for 74,000 kroner ($10,000) without anyone from the company noticing it was listed as stolen.
The painting was stolen along with seven other works from a house near the southern Danish city of Kolding in 2000 and was registered with the Art Loss Register in London, a database of stolen art worldwide, reports newspaper Politiken.
“If the Danish auction house had a subscription to the Art Loss Register, they would have found the painting with a simple search of our database, thereby avoiding the illegal sale in Denmark,” Nina Neuhaus of the Art Loss Register told the newspaper.
The register can run a manual check of all the works valued at €1,500 or more in an auction house's catalogue, reports Politiken. The cost for the auction house is around 22 kroner ($3) per search.
But unlike most international auction houses, neither Lauritz nor any other of its Danish colleagues subscribe to the database.
“We recommend that all our experts use the checking methods available, including Art Loss Register, Find Stolen Art and Stolen Art FBI,” Lauritz' concept director Mette Jessen told the newspaper by email. Jessen added that the company did not use Art Loss Register in this instance since the work in question was Danish and the Danish police had no record of it being stolen.
The incident is not the first time stolen works have been mistakenly auctioned in Denmark. In 2011, Lauritz sold a stolen painting by Danish artist Anders Moseholm and last year listed for auction a part of a coffin that was stolen from Esbjerg Museum in 1977.