Italian police find stolen 500-year-old painting of Christ in Naples cupboard

A 500-year-old painting was discovered in an apartment on the outskirts of the southern Italian city, which was stolen from a church museum in Naples.

Important points:

  • The oil painting is a copy of Leonardo da Vinci’s famous Salvator Mundi artwork
  • The 36-year-old owner of the apartment was arrested
  • There was no sign of a break-in in the museum where the artwork was housed

Little did the staff at the San Domenico Maggiore Museum know that the portrait of Christ, believed to have been painted by Leonardo da Vinci’s pupil Giacomo Alibrandi, was missing.

The painting is a copy of the famous Salvator Mundi attributed to da Vinci himself, which sold in New York in 2017 for a record $ 450 million ($ 591 million). This makes it the most expensive work sold at auction.

“The painting was found on Saturday thanks to a brilliant and hard-working police operation,” said Naples Prosecutor Giovanni Melillo.

“There was no complaint on the matter and in fact we contacted them [church] previously, who was not aware of its disappearance as the room in which the painting is kept has not been open for three months. “

Leonardo da Vinci’s original painting by Salvator Mundi set a record when it sold for $ 591 million in 2017. (AP: Kirsty Wigglesworth / File)

The museum collection had been closed due to coronavirus restrictions.

Police said a tip led them to the apartment over the weekend and they found the painting hidden in a closet.

The 36-year-old owner of the apartment was arrested on suspicion of receiving stolen goods.

After the police returned the painting to the church, they are now investigating how it was stolen in the first place since there was no evidence of a break-in, Melillo said.

“Whoever took the painting wanted it, and it is plausible that it was a contract theft by an international art trade organization,” he added

Video images released by the police show an empty wall in a large alcove, which is secured by locked wooden doors, in which the artwork from the museum was housed.

The arrested man allegedly said he bought the painting at a flea market.

San Domenico Maggiore, a victim of theft in the past, is home to many important works of art.

Some, including paintings by Caravaggio, Raphael, and Titian, have been moved to museums in Naples.

Reuters / AFP

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