Stolen Lindauer painting appears in dark web auction - but auction image appears to be fake

One of the two Gottfriend Lindauer paintings stolen earlier this year in a ram raid has appeared on the dark web for sale - but the image attached to the auction appears to almost-certainly be fake.

The dark web is a highly anonymous version of the Internet, accessible only through specialised browsers.

Two paintings by the Austrian artist were stolen in a ram raid at a gallery in Parnell on Saturday morning. Source: Breakfast

For more on this story, watch 1 NEWS at 6pm. Source: 1 NEWS

The painting - an 1884 work of Chief Ngatai-Raure - was stolen in an early-morning raid at the International Art Centre in Auckland on April 1.

A screenshot of the Gottfried Lindauer auction on the White Shadow Dark Web marketplace.

Wired Magazine reported that an auction for the painting has been listed on the 'White Shadow' marketplace.

The auction has reportedly received two bids, with the current highest bid standing at 35.1 Bitcoins - equivalent to about NZ$416,000. The 'buy now' is about NZ$966,000 worth of Bitcoin.

Bitcoin - the world's most widely-used cryptocurrency - is very difficult to link to an identity, and impossible to get back once it is transferred, which is why it is often the preferred currency for scammers.

It's unclear whether the listing is genuine, following the infamous heist earlier this year. Source: 1 NEWS

Wired reported it had been sent a photograph of the painting in which a post-it note with the current date written on it was visible - however, the image attached to the auction appears to almost-certainly be a Photoshopped fake.

Art and Object gallery's Hamish Coney told Wired the frame in the auction image "appears to differ from the frame within which the works were originally offered/illustrated".

A photograph of Gottfried Lindauer paintings taken by Urszula Usakowska-Wolff at the Alte Nationalgalerie Berlin in Germany in 2014 on the Kunstdunst website.

The frame in the auction image appears to have been taken from a photograph by Urszula Usakowska-Wolff, which was taken at the Alte Nationalgalerie Berlin in Germany in 2014 and published online on the Kunstdunst website.

The person reportedly selling the Lindauer appears to have lifted the image from that website and used image-editing software like Photoshop to modify the colour saturation, colour temperature and insert an image of the Lindauer painting within the frame.

A side-by-side enhanced comparison of the auction image, left, and the original 2014 image, showing the correlation between the images. Source: Urszula Usakowska-Wolff/1 NEWS graphic

When the image was enhanced and compared by 1 NEWS, the similarity was obvious, with the frame details identical, compression artifacts correlating and the placement of wires supporting the frame - which were barely visible in the original images - lining up exactly.

New Zealand Police said in a statement that they are continuing to investigate the theft of the two paintings.