A Cezanne stolen over 20 years ago is to be sold at Sotheby's next month. The painting "Bouilloire et Fruits" (Pitcher with Fruit), dating from 1888-90, is expected to fetch between £9-12million at auction in December after it was recovered by staff from the Art Loss Register (ALR).

The painting was purchased in 1958 by Harry and Ruth Bakwin of Massachussetts.

In 1978, the painting was stolen from the home of one of their children. But it wasn't until December 1998, that the ALR was contacted.

The painting was recovered some ten months later, in October this year in circumstances which are not being disclosed.

A spokesman for the Bakwin family said: "After almost 20 years the family had given up all hope of this picture ever being returned. They are very grateful to the Art Loss Register."

The ALR is a private image database of stolen works of art, antiques and valuables.

With offices in London and New York, it works closely with police forces and has been instrumental in the recovery of over $100m of stolen art.

Earlier this year the ALR found a $6m Monet "Waterlilies" in the French National Collection. It had been looted during World War Two, and is shortly to be returned to its rightful owner's heirs.