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Michael J. Lowenberg and the Return of the Raeburn

Michael J. Lowenberg and the Return of the Raeburn

Last week, thanks in part to representation from personal injury-plaintiff attorney Michael J. Lowenberg of The O’Quinn Law Firm in Houston, socialite Joanne King Herring once again gazed upon a painting she hadn’t seen for more than 25 years.

“Portrait of a Man” by Scottish artist Sir Henry Raeburn had been displayed in Herring’s home when she decided that it and three other paintings should be reframed. Her staff sent the artwork to the shop but none of the paintings returned.

Reports to the police and the Art Loss Register followed. The paintings were insured but Herring refused the insurance money. She wanted the paintings.

Cut to 2009 when the Raeburn resurfaced at an auction at Sotheby’s. The new owner says he purchased the painting from an auction in Houston but he lacked evidence of ownership; Herring still had her original receipt and police report.

“There’s no finders-keepers in the art world,” says Lowenberg, a Texas Rising Stars honoree every year since 2006, who handled the case pro bono because of Herring’s friendship with the late John O’Quinn. “And it’s definitely a unique situation.”

A trial was set for January 3, 2011, but ultimately the new owner agreed to return the painting.

Unveiled last week, “Portrait of a Man” is now on display at The O’Quinn Law Firm–temporarily. In a final twist, Herring, who was portrayed by Julia Roberts in the 2007 movie Charlie Wilson’s War, reportedly plans to sell the painting to raise money for Marshall Plan Charities for Afghanistan Inc.

–Jessica Tam

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