Italy police seize Rubens masterpiece after fraud investigation

ROME (Reuters) - Italian police said on Friday they had seized a painting on display by the 17th century Flemish master Peter Paul Rubens after a fraud investigation into its owners.

The masterpiece, called "The resurrected Christ appears to his mother", was part of a "Rubens in Genoa" exhibition in the city's Doge's Palace. The police are not accusing the exhibition of any wrongdoing.

The oil painting, almost 2 metres high and 1.5 metres across, was ensured for 4 million euros ($4.27 million).

Genoa police said in a statement they believed its Italian owners, who were not named, had used false documents to send it abroad as part of an operation to increase its market value.

They also allegedly set up foreign companies in order to pretend to have sold the painting, which shows Jesus greeting his mother, with an unknown third woman between them.

This third figure was absent from an earlier version of the same work by Rubens but there's no suggestion that the painting is fake.

($1 = 0.9374 euros)

(Reporting By Gavin Jones; Editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise)