An attempt to sell an “exceptional” painting has been stopped by Italian police after the piece in question was illegally shipped to Vienna.
Returning the painting by Baroque artist Artemisia Gentileschi to Bari, the city where it was first painted 400 years ago, officials explained that the private owners of the work are now being investigated for arranging its illegal transport.
Valued at almost €2million by the auction house, it has been argued, primarily by Riccardo Lattuada, a Gentileschi expert, that the painting should have never been allowed to leave the country in the first place, accusing the state of “incompetence” as a result.
Portraying the ancient story of Pero, who breastfed her imprisoned father in secret, the piece was commissioned in the mid-17th century by Giangirolamo II Acquaviva d’Aragona. The “highly important” piece of art was estimated to reach €2million at auction, as Lattuada told The Art Newspaper, with similar pieces of work reaching such prices in recent years.
Allegedly claiming that the painter was by a follower of Gentileschi and not the artist herself, the dealers were granted permission to take the piece out of the country by the culture ministry’s exports department. The painting’s current owners, Michele Forte and Domenico Iannuzziello, took the piece abroad in 2019, with authorities believing that they concealed its identity and real value.
If judges rule that both Iannuzziello and Forte broke the law, the painting would be confiscated by the state and donated to a Puglia museum.