A painting that was stolen from a church in Modena in 2014 is now on its way back home, after a savvy collector in Casablanca recognized the work.
The Art Newspaper reports that three men have been arrested after attempting to sell the 1639 altarpiece Madonna with the Saints John the Evangelist and Gregory the Wonderworker, belonging to the Church of San Vincenzo.
The Italian and Moroccan governments are now negotiating the return of the ten-by-six foot painting, which the illicit dealers were attempting to sell for 10 million dirham, around $993,000.
However, AFP reports the painting could actually be worth a much higher sum: art historians have valued the work at between €5 million and €6 million, around $5.3 million to $6.3 million.
The painting was stolen overnight in August 2014. Thieves are thought to have nabbed painting after attending Sunday Mass at the church, and hiding inside after services ended. The theft was made easy by a dysfunctional alarm system, and despite its significant size and value, it was not insured.
But the work turned up on the market, and an unnamed Moroccan collector and businessman reported it to the local police, who informed Interpol, and subsequently the Italian Carabinieri’s art theft department, of the find.
Italian police said in a statement that the Ministries of Culture and Foreign Affairs are currently working to have the painting returned to Modena as soon as possible.
Barbieri was a painter of the Italian Baroque, who got his nickname “Guercino,” Italian for “squinter,” because he was cross-eyed.
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