Convicted criminal’s art collection recovered by police

A painting by Salavador Dalì is one of 14 artworks to have been recovered by Italian police from the collection of a Calabrian businessman tied to one of the country’s most powerful criminal organisations.

Italy’s Carabinieri Art Squad discovered a painting of Christ healing a blind man in an apartment in Reggio Calabria after a search warrant was issued. When cross-checked with its stolen cultural property database the Carabinieri matched the work to a canvas stolen in Randozzo in 2001. A search of another apartment in Messina turned up 13 further works by artists including Salvador Dalì, Giuliana Cappello and Mario Pinizzotto. Continue reading

Italian police recover two stolen Van Gogh paintings

Two paintings by Dutch artist Vincent van Gogh stolen from an Amsterdam museum over a decade ago have been recovered in seaside town in Italy.

‘Congregation Leaving the Reformed Church’ (1884) and ‘View of the Sea at Scheveningen’ (1882) are collectively valued at £77 million. They are examples of Van Gogh’s early work with the Scheveningen piece one of just two Dutch seascapes ever made by the artist. In December 2002, thieves used a ladder to climb to the roof of the Van Gogh Museum and broke in undetected by cameras. Octave ‘The Monkey’ Durham and his accomplice Henk Bieslijn removed the works from the walls of the main exhibition hall in minutes and escaped the scene by sliding down a rope. The notorious heist made the FBI’s list of “top 10” art crimes and baffled experts because security guards had been on patrol at the time of the raid. In 2004 the art thieves were convicted of theft after police discovered their DNA at the scene of the crime but the artworks were never found. Continue reading

Fears for the fate of cultural heritage sites after devastating earthquake

As rescue efforts continue in the wake of the 6.2-magnitude earthquake which struck Italy on Wednesday (24 August) there are fears for the fate of cultural heritage sites and some 3,000 works of art.

Cultural Minister Dario Franceschini has emphasised that the government’s first priority is with saving lives and according to reports, the death toll from the deadly quake stood at 267 this morning (26 August) and families of the deceased are preparing to hold the first funerals. Continue reading

Italy makes €1bn investment in its heritage

The Italian government have announced that they will be investing €1bn into museums and cultural sites across the country.

It will be the “biggest investment in cultural heritage” in Italy’s recent history, culture minister Dario Franceschini told The Telegraph. “These projects will start straightaway. These are not just announcements, but initiatives that have already been deliberated and financed,” he added.

The money, which will come from regular government budgets until 2020, will be allocated to 33 cultural places. The ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum and the Uffizi Galleries in Florence are among those that will benefit. An 18th century stone prison, designed by British philosopher Jeremy Bentham on the island of Santo Stefano, will receive €70 million – the largest proportion of the funds.

It marks a new direction for the country, whose struggling economy has meant that it has had to rely on private benefactors and corporate sponsors to help preserve and protect its world-famous heritage. Artnet news points out that luxury group Tod’s paid €25 million to refurbish Rome’s Colosseum in 2012, fashion house Fendi paid $2.2 m (£1.5m) to restore the Trevi Fountain in 2014, and jeweler Bulgari donated $2 million (£1.3m) to repair the Spanish Steps in 2014.

The government are hopeful that much of the money will be recouped through tourism.

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Italy celebrates the return of stolen artefacts

After a catastrophic week for its prized art collections, Italy is celebrating the recovery of five frescoed stone slabs stolen from the ancient city of Paestum, which went on display in Rome on Thursday (26 November).

Dating from around 300 BC, the frescoes were removed from ancient tombs in Paestum near Naples during an illegal dig in the 1990s. Paestum was originally founded by the ancient Greeks and boasts hundreds of ancient tomb sites.The frescoes depict a noble lady and her slave girls, a warrior on horseback and a young armed man walking with a donkey. According to Paestum site director, Gabriel Zuchtriegel, they offer a valuable insight into aristocratic life in the 4th century BC. Continue reading