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
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.
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 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.
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.