Forgotten Sandro Botticelli Piece Seized by Italian Authorities

Forgotten Sandro Botticelli Piece Came Into the Hands of Italian Authorities, Who Seized It From a Family's Home.

Dec 2, 2023By Angela Davic, News, Discoveries, In-depth Reporting, and Analysis
 Virgin Mary painting, Forgotten Sandro Botticelli
Via Wikipedia


Forgotten Sandro Botticelli painting came into the hands of the Italian police. The authority body which took the work into custody is the government agency in Naples. Overall, its goal is to preserve the historic culture of the Renaissance master. With this, the Somma family, who was supposed to take care of the piece, could lose ownership of the piece.


Forgotten Sandro Botticelli Piece Seized by Italian Government

Forgotten Sandro Botticelli
Photo courtesy of Soprintendenza Archeologia Belle Arti e Paesaggio per l’Area Metropolitana di Napoli


The original location of the Madonna and Child (1481–82) piece was at the chapel of Santa Maria delle Grazie in the town of S. Maria la Carità. After that, the Somma family started taking care of the piece, as entrusted with it. There was no additional data about the family offered. Also, officials did not explain why the artwork came to them in the first place.


More precisely, when it came into the family home. Half a century ago, officials from the Italian government paid the Somma family a visit to examine the picture. After that, they lost track of it over time. How the work ended up back on the government’s agenda was not readily apparent. Superintendent Mariano Nuzzo received the painting from the family.


botticelli suicide lucretia painting, forgotten sandro botticelli
Storie di Lucrezia, by Sandro Botticelli, 1504, via Isabella Stuart Gardner Museum, Boston


The agency calls this the “final act of a process”, led by Massimiliano Croce of the Carabinieri’s art protection unit in Naples. Nello D’Aurioa, the mayor of Gragnano, where the family lives, facilitated the painting’s transfer. The authorities justified the confiscation by citing Article 43 of the nation’s Cultural Heritage Code. As it says, to guarantee the painting’s safety and ensure its preservation.

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Poor Conservation Conditions

the birth of venus painting botticelli renaissance 1486
The Birth of Venus by Sandro Botticelli, 1484-1486, via Galleria degli Uffizi


“The painting is in very poor conservation condition, showing in fact detachments of the paint film, color falls, abrasions and chromatic alterations due to both repainting and oxidation of overpainted protective varnishes”, the agency said in its statement. UV light research revealed significant manipulation and repainting. According to officials, this is what caused the work to be immediately taken into government hands.


But it’s uncertain whether the family or the church will ever get the artwork returned. The Carabinieri are looking into the possibility that the painting actually belonged to the family. “If we were to verify that the family who owned it did not have a title to keep it then it will pass into the hands of the state. Otherwise, it could remain the property of the family, but exhibited in a museum to ensure greater security”, Croce said.


renaissance portrait boticelli
Idealized Portrait of a Lady, by Sandro Botticelli, around 1480, via Google Arts and Culture


Meanwhile, a new podcast documents the real-life twists and turns of a quest to recover a painting by the Baroque master Caravaggio, believed to have been stolen by the mafia from another Italian church in 1969.














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By Angela DavicNews, Discoveries, In-depth Reporting, and AnalysisAngela is a journalism student at the Faculty of Political Science in Belgrade and received a scholarship for continued education in Prague. She completed her internship at the daily newspaper DANAS and worked as an executive editor at Talas.