The recovery came just before Christmas after a Polish collector offered the painting, stolen from the Museum of Modern Art in Stockholm in 1987, to an art dealer in Essex, the BBC reported Monday.
Charles Fine Art proprietor Charles Roberts searched the Art Loss Register, a database of stolen and missing artwork, and once a match was confirmed the recovery was handed to ALR Director Christopher Marinello, who negotiated the painting's return, the report said.
"No payments were made, no arms were broken," Marinello told the BBC.
The painting by the French impressionist is being kept in a safe until it is handed over to the Swedish Ministry of Culture for its return to Stockholm.
The Matisse was the only painting taken after burglars broke through the museum's front entrance with a sledgehammer.
Marinello said well-known stolen artwork "has no real value in the legitimate marketplace and will eventually resurface ... [and] it's just a matter of waiting it out."
The Art Loss Register typically receives a fee from insurers for recovering a stolen painting, but the Matisse piece was government-owned and uninsured, he said.
"Let's just say this was a Christmas present for the people of Sweden," Marinello said.