Artist's prayer answered at cost of dollars 25,000

First Edition

AN ARTIST who promised a reward of dollars 25,000 ( pounds 16,600) to anyone who could help to recover his painting of a 17th-century Madonna praying over cheeseburgers, which was stolen from a Los Angeles bar, must be wishing he could eat his words.

A woman is claiming the reward after helping police find the painting and arrest a suspect. But Robert Reynolds, the 51-year-old artist, cannot afford to pay up. 'Frankly, I never expected to see the painting again,' he told the Los Angeles Times.

As there were no witnesses to the theft last November from Al's Bar, a popular haunt of artists, Mr Reynolds advertised in an art magazine and offered a reward of dollars 500 for MacMadonna. When that failed to whet anyone's appetite, he increased the amount to dollars 25,000.

'That figure just popped into my head,' he said. 'Since then I've seen murder case rewards that are dollars 250 or so.' Sadly, selling his painting will not help Mr Reynolds. Not only is it valued at just dollars 4,000, but it is being held by the police as evidence.

Mr Reynolds intends to pay the reward in dollars 250 instalments. The person claiming the money is Laura Domela, 26, a painter and photographer who says she overheard a man boasting about 'a funny Madonna- and-burgers painting'. He overheard her mention her forthcoming party, and gave her his address, hoping to be invited. That was some months ago, but Ms Domela lost the slip of paper on which the address was written and has only recently found it.

The man accused of the theft is due to appear in court in Los Angeles this week.