Skip to Content

Found 1,844 Resources

Professor Helps Bust Italian Art Theft Ring

Smithsonian Magazine

A professor at Lund University in Sweden was looking over a rare, 16th-century prayer book when he noticed something amiss. As Andrea Vogt reports for the Telegraph, the manuscript had been marked with an antique stamp of the Royal Library of Turin. Sensing that the manuscript might in fact still belong to the library, the professor contacted the Italian embassy in Sweden—and by doing so, helped authorities bust a notorious art theft ring.

The prayer book, Modus Orandi Deum Aliaque Pia et Christiana Exercitia Nec Non Deiparae Virginis Maria Litaniae, had in fact been pilfered from a glass case at the library in 2012. The professor directed authorities to a student in Bologna, who had sold the manuscript online. The student in turn said that he purchased the item from a local book dealer. When authorities raided the dealer’s warehouse, they found a trove of precious art and rare books that had been reported stolen from various locations across Italy.

Giovanni Saccani, director of the Royal Library, told Italian media, according to Vogt that the professor didn’t accept any compensation for returning the manuscript, which is worth an estimated €20,000-€​30,000.

Turin is something of a hotbed for art crimes, but Italian police have recently been cracking down on the problem. In 2017, 77 people in the Turin area were implicated in art crimes, and 3,470 artworks were seized before they could be shipped abroad, Vogt reports. In May, police announced that they had recovered a series of masterpieces worth millions of dollars from a villa in Turin. A collector reportedly told authorities about the paintings’ whereabouts after the illicit dealers tried to pay him with counterfeit bills.

Unfortunately, police haven’t yet nabbed the culprits behind a heist that took place in nearby Monza, Art News reports. In April, thieves stole nearly $30 million worth of art by Rembrandt and Renoir from an art dealer there, after posing as buyers from the Albanian consulate.

Millard Meiss at work with Committee to Rescue Italian Art

Archives of American Art
1 photographic print : b&w ; 18 x 24 cm. Black and white photograph of Millard Meiss and other members of the Committee to Rescue Italian Art (CRIA) in what may be the Chiesa di San Moisè in Venice, Italy. Meiss is shown crouching (left) examining damage.
Inscription (stamped) verso: Cameraphoto; Riva Carbon 4632-Tel.27875-Venezia
Inscription (handwritten) verso: Prof Meiss; Soprintende Valcanores[?]; San Moise; 1967

An Italian

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Warings' exhibition of Italian art 1909 : furniture, bronzes, tapestries, embroideries, marbles, lace, academy pictures

Smithsonian Libraries
Cover title: Italian furniture and pictures by Italian artists.

Inside the Italian Art Hospital That Rescues Old Paintings

Smithsonian Magazine

In 1966, Florence endured a historic flood. The Arno river, usually a placid waterway beneath the city’s bridges, swelled into a raging, muddy torrent. The disaster killed 39 people, left 20,000 homeless and damaged roughly 1,500 monuments and pieces of art.

Yet, out of the tragedy came some good: The destruction gave a mission to the Opificio delle Pietre Dure, a "part museum, part workshop, part hospital for threatened treasures," reports Jeffrey Brown for PBS Newshour. Now, cultural masterpieces are sent to Florence to be saved and restored, along with some of the very same artwork that was damaged by floodwaters nearly 50 years ago.

"This is probably the only place where you can expect a miracle," the deputy director of the OPD, Cecilia Frosinini, tells Brown. The OPD’s name translates to "the Workshop of Semi-Precious Stones," harkening back to its 16th-century origins as a producer of fine mosaics and stonework.

A few damaged pieces have languished for decades, as experts were forced to wait for safer restoration techniques. "The flood was the starting point with the new relationship with science." Marco Ciatti, the director of the workshop, tells Brown. That relationship has paid off with the restoration of nearly ruined art, such as Giorgio Vasari's "Last Supper," a painting from 1546 that was submerged in Florence's Santa Croce Church during the flood. 

To keep the paint from peeling away from the five sodden wood panels, the Getty Foundation explains, paper was carefully placed over "Last Supper." The technology needed to restore the painting was just recently developed, so the OPD team hopes to finish the project before the 50th anniversary of the flood.

As Brown reports, the OPD employs a variety of experts restorers, master woodworkers, conservators and even a physicist who uses multispectral imaging to see what lies beneath the artwork. A photo essay by NewsHour's Frank Carlson shows those experts at work restoring damaged paintings, altarpieces and a crucifix by Cimabue damaged by the 1966 flood. The workshop’s mission also extends to masterpieces that need basic touch-ups, such as Leonardo da Vinci’s "Adoration of the Magi."

Today, the River Arno still carries the risk of flooding. Though Florence has begun to prepare for a future of rising waters, a deluge could overwhelm the new measures. If that ever happens, the OPD may need to save a new slate of masterpieces.

Italian

National Museum of American History

Italian Shrine

Smithsonian American Art Museum

An Italian Girl [art work] / (photographed by Peter A. Juley & Son)

Archives and Special Collections, Smithsonian American Art Museum
Black-and-white study print (8x10).

Orig. negative: 8x10, Nitrate, BW.

copy 1 negative: 8x10, Safety, BW.

Old Italian Woman [art work] / (photographed by Peter A. Juley & Son)

Archives and Special Collections, Smithsonian American Art Museum
Black-and-white study print (8x10).

Orig. negative: 8x10, Safety, BW.

Syracuse University.

Dahlias in Italian Vase [art work] / (photographed by Peter A. Juley & Son)

Archives and Special Collections, Smithsonian American Art Museum
Black-and-white study print (8x10).

Orig. negative: 8x10, Nitrate, BW.

copy 1 negative: 8x10, Safety, BW.

Abrams, Lucien.

Italian Woman

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Italian Riviera

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Italian Vase

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Italian Peasant Woman

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Italian Ornate

National Museum of American History

Italian Scene

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Italian Woman with Child

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Old Italian Masters

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Francikquing--Italian Comedy

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Casa Italian Bakery

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Old Italian Masters

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Old Italian Masters

Smithsonian American Art Museum
1-24 of 1,844 Resources