Italy police recover stolen masterpieces
By ARIEL DAVID
ROME (AP) — Italian police have recovered 10 masterpieces, including a painting attributed to an artist who worked on the Sistine Chapel, that were stolen in 2004 from an ancient religious complex in Rome, officials said Tuesday.
Officers located the paintings in December. The works were wrapped in newspapers and hidden in the trailer of a suspected art smuggler, police said.
Investigators believe the man was about to take the works abroad to sell them, Carabinieri paramilitary police art squad chief Gen. Giovanni Nistri said. The suspect is under investigation for receiving stolen goods, but is not believed to be behind the theft.
Nistri said the paintings are worth around euro4 million ($5.3 million) and range from the 16th to the 19th century.
The most important among the recovered works is the “Sacred Family,” depicting Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus.
The work has been attributed to 16th-century artist Parmigianino. However, Rome museum official Claudio Strinati later told reporters that it was more likely the work of Flemish master Hendrick van den Broeck, a friend of Parmigianino who also decorated the entrance of the Sistine Chapel, best known for the frescoes painted there by Michelangelo.
Strinati is an expert in 16th-century art.
The recovered paintings are in good condition, considering they were already awaiting restoration when they were stolen from the halls of Santo Spirito in Sassia, a religious complex near the Vatican used as medieval hostel and hospital.
Also on Tuesday, the Culture Ministry said it had handed over to Bulgarian authorities more than 2,000 archaeological artifacts illegally exported from the eastern European country.
The artifacts, mostly ancient coins, were seized by police in 2005 when two Bulgarians tried to sell them at a collectors fair in Verona, the ministry said in a statement.