A painting by seventeenth-century Flemish master Peter Paul Rubens depicting Christ greeting the Madonna was removed by the Carabinieri from an exhibition at the Palazzo Ducale in Genoa, Italy, last Friday over concerns that it had been illegally trafficked. The 1612–16 canvas, titled The Resurrected Christ Appears to His Mother and insured for €4 million ($4.25 million), has since been returned, but Italian authorities are continuing to explore the circumstances under which it arrived at the palace.
Four Italian citizens—the painting’s two art-dealer owners and an accountant and his son—are suspected of participating in a scheme that saw the work purchased from the noble Italian Cambiaso family in 2012 for €300,000 (then about $386,000). According to Italian daily Corriere della Serra, the painting’s new owners had it restored in 2014 to show a third figure, a woman kneeling next to the Madonna, after X-ray technology revealed her presence in the original work. They then falsely attributed the painting to an unknown Flemish painter and declared its value at just €25,000 and that year smuggled it out of the country to Prague. There, it was authenticated as a Rubens and resold through companies the accountant and his son had established outside of Italy in order to boost the work’s value. Finally, the painting was loaned to the Genoa exhibition in what authorities say was an attempt to “certify the paternity of Rubens and increase its value.”
The Art Newspaper noted that Italian culture ministry undersecretary Vittorio Sgarbi, an art critic, publicly chastised the Carabinieri for seizing and holding the painting and suggested that it may indeed be a fake. In response, Anna Orlando, a cocurator of the Genoa exhibition, told Italian daily La Repubblica that the work’s authenticity was not up for debate.