Spielberg is cooperating with the FBI and will retain possession of “Russian Schoolroom” until its “disposition can be determined,” the bureau said. The oil-on-canvas painting shows children in a classroom with a bust of communist leader Vladimir Lenin. Several after-hours calls to Spielberg’s publicist and attorneys were not immediately returned. The painting was nabbed in a gallery heist and resurfaced briefly in legitimate art forums before disappearing again. Mary Ellen Shortland, who worked at the long-closed Clayton Art Gallery, recalled Friday that someone from Missouri paid $25,000 for the painting after seeing it during a Rockwell exhibition featuring mostly lithographs. A Norman Rockwell work stolen from suburban St. Louis more than three decades ago was found in Steven Spielberg’s art collection, the FBI announced Friday. The painting, Rockwell’s “Russian Schoolroom,” was snatched during a late-night burglary at a gallery in Clayton, Mo., on June 25, 1973. The Oscar-winning filmmaker purchased the painting in 1989 from a legitimate dealer and didn’t know it was stolen until last week, the FBI said in a statement. After Spielberg’s staff alerted federal authorities, an FBI agent and an art expert from the Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens in San Marino inspected the painting at one of Spielberg’s offices and confirmed its authenticity Friday morning. Early FBI estimates put the painting’s value at $700,000, officials said. The client agreed to keep it on display, she said, but a few nights later someone smashed the gallery’s glass door and escaped with the painting. “That was all they took. That’s what they wanted, that painting,” Shortland recalled. The gallery refunded the client’s money, and there was no sign of the work for years. Then in 1988, it was auctioned in New Orleans. Shortland recalled seeing the painting again in an advertisement for a small New York gallery, since closed, about 15 years ago. She estimated that the painting could be worth “hundreds of thousands of dollars” today, if it is in excellent condition. In 2004, the FBI’s newly formed Art Crime Team initiated an investigation to recover the work. Rockwell’s work often resonates with people because much of it captures moments from everyday life, such as a boy watching his father shave, family members saying grace over a Thanksgiving turkey or a young girl having a dress fitting. The artist died at age 84 in 1978. While “Russian Schoolroom” appeared in Look magazine, the artist is best known for the covers he did for The Saturday Evening Post. More than 300 Rockwell creations appeared on the cover of the publication.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!