Stolen 14th-century Italian painting found in the United States


A 14th-century triptych painting, which was stolen from an Italian villa nearly 40 years ago, has been found in a museum in Kentucky. US government officials announced yesterday that the art piece, a three-panel wooden triptych, which depicts the Virgin Mary with Child, was found at the Speed Art Museum in Louisville, will be returned to its owners in Italy.

The triptych, which is believed to the work of Jacopo del Casentino, was stolen from the Villa La Giraffa in Goito, Italy, on October 2, 1971. According to Italian police reports, burglars entered the villa in the early morning hours by cutting through metal bars and a glass window on the first floor of the residence. Fourteen pieces of art, worth $33 million at the time, were stolen, including original oil paintings by the Italian realist painters Giovanni Fattori and Silvestro Lega, and three still-life paintings by artists from the Venetian School.

Acting on information from officials at the Italian Ministry of Cultural Heritage in Rome, HSI agents tracked the triptych to the Speed Art Museum’s permanent collection. Art consultants were able to positively identify the artwork based on unique markings in old photographs. The Speed Art Museum, which purchased the piece in 1973 from an art gallery in New York, promptly cooperated with law enforcement after federal agents brought the theft to its attention.

The agreement to return the work to Italy was announced by Loretta E. Lynch, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, and James T. Hayes, Jr., Special Agent-in-Charge, United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), in New York.

The triptych’s central panel depicts the Virgin Mary with Child, surrounded with two patron saints, John the Baptist and Catherine of Alexandria. The right panel depicts the crucifixion of Jesus and the annunciation of the Virgin Mary, and the left panel depicts Saints Anthony Abate and Vescovo. It has been attributed to the fourteenth-century artist Jacopo del Casentino.

“This recovery and settlement is another example of the benefits of cooperation between the United States and international law enforcement,” stated United States Attorney Lynch. “Returning stolen artwork and cultural patrimony remains a priority of this office.” Ms. Lynch thanked the Italian Ministry of Cultural Heritage for its assistance.

“This one-of-a-kind, 14th century triptych, which has cultural and historical significance, is a beautiful reminder of a time long ago. We are delighted to have played a role in returning it to Italy,” said HSI Special Agent-in-Charge Hayes. “Its return nearly 30 years after it was brazenly stolen demonstrates the success of HSI’s efforts to preserve world treasures.”

Source: The United States Attorney’s Office

Sharan Newman