Thursday, February 16, 2017

Stolen Italian Artwork Recovered in Casablanca

The art world has welcomed the recovery of a priceless Italian art work by Giovanni Francesco Barbieri, known as  Guercino. To the surprise of many, it was discovered, not in Rome, Paris or New York, but in Casablanca

The work by Guercino, "Madonna with Saints John the Evangelist and Gregory Healer" (1639), an oil on canvas of three meters high and almost two in width, was stolen on August the 12th, 2014, from the church of San Vincenzo in corso Canalgrande in the Italian city of Modena.

At the time of the theft, the parish priest, Don Giovanni Gherardi said it was..."the most precious picture and that we have had here since the church was built".

The initial theory was that the painting had been stolen on commission. The church of San Vincenzo is located a few steps from the Modena Court. The prosecutor,  on-site scientific police and the examining magistrate, put forward the hypotheses that as the door of the church was not damaged the thieves had been hiding in the church before closing. The Church of San Vincenzo is not a parish, and therefore is not open all week; was closed Sunday evening, after Mass, so the thieves were able to act undisturbed and left no trace.

Immediately after the discovery of the theft of the painting in Modena, there was a worldwide alarm in the hope of finding what is widely considered a masterpiece of Italian art.

Detail from the painting

Italian art critic, Vittorio Sgarbi, estimated that the painting was worth possibly five million to six million Euro and was "a monumental work of early maturity".  At the time, Sgarbi described it as sensational theft, and suggested it wast also inexplicable, since it is a work that is virtually unsellable. "There can not be a customer, no museum and no private collector who would ever buy it" he said "I think this theft can only be the work of a band of unsuspecting foreigners, people who do not know anything about the laws of the market and maybe think to ask for a ransom. "

It seems that Vittorio Sgarbi was correct, for the stolen painting was offered for sale to a Moroccan businessman by three fences, who asked for 10 million dirhams (about 940,000 euro). Fortunately, the businessman recognised Guercino's masterpiece and immediately alerted the police, who arrested the fake art dealers. One of the Moroccan's arrested has lived in Italy for a number of years,


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