CHELSEA — The $45,000 Bradley Theodore painting stolen from the Dream Downtown hotel has returned to the scene of the crime, sources said.
The artwork depicting a skeletal rendering of legendary Vogue editor Diana Vreeland was messengered to the Dream Downtown hotel in Chelsea, about 7 p.m. Tuesday — roughly 17 hours after it went missing, the hotel's spokeswoman Michelle Kelley said.
Sources said the thief, sporting long slicked-back dark hair, was casually enjoying a few cocktails inside the trendy hotel on West 16th Street around 3 a.m. Tuesday with a small gathering of regulars.
He finished his drink, paid his tab and then headed out the bar, passing through a small gallery room ringed with Theodore's works.
There, he allegedly reached up and grabbed a roughly 3-foot by 4-foot painting and fled into the street, leaving behind a nail where the painting had hung, sources said.
The spokeswoman said the painting was insured for $45,000 and was returned in tact by a private messenger service.
Investigators believe that the thief likely learned from some of his fellow revelers that the police were looking for the painting — and he apparently decided to return it with the hope of no harm, no foul.
But that will likely not be the end of the case, officials say, as the NYPD continues to investigate the theft.
On Tuesday, the hotel had moved a smaller Theodore work from another ensemble and placed it in the space where the stolen painting had been.
The pilfered artwork was back in its normal spot by Wednesday afternoon, Kelly said.