$100M Botticelli Found in Home

In World

Another long-missing painting by a great Italian artist has been found in a private home. Sandro Botticelli’s depiction of the Virgin Mary and infant Christ was tracked down in Gragnano, a southern Italy town near Naples, CNN reports. The painting, which was commissioned for the Roman Catholic Church in 1470, is estimated to be worth more than than $100 million. It wasn’t so much lost in the physical world as it was missing in government bureaucracy, and getting the work into the hands of Italy’s culture ministry was tricky, requiring the intervention of Gragnano’s mayor.

Botticelli’s work long hung in churches. When an earthquake damaged the Santa Maria la Carità church holding it in 1982, the ministry said, the parish gave the painting to a family in the area for safekeeping. For a while, officials checked on the painting in the Sommes’ home, even helping clean and move it. The visits stopped in the 1990s, and the painting was added to the ministry’s list of missing works. Officials found it with another branch of the family this summer. Police enlisted the mayor’s help in removing the painting without fuss. “This is a work totally unknown to the public which will now be exhibited again thanks to the intervention of the State,” Cmdr. Massimiliano Croce said. “We acted in an administrative manner, without resorting to the Prosecutor’s Office or a seizure.”

The family had handed the painting down through the generations for more than a century and still owns it. But police are investigating whether the claim is legitimate. “If we were to verify that the family who owned it was not entitled to keep it then it will pass into the hands of the state,” Croce said. Either way, the painting is headed for a museum in Naples. It’s in poor condition, per the Guardian, and restoration could take more than a year. In a book about Botticelli, Ronald W. Lightbown writes that it was Pope Sixtus IV who donated the painting to a church in the area, in an effort to induce the Medici family to help finance the Sistine Chapel’s completion. (Read more Sandro Botticelli stories.)

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