A missing Botticelli masterpiece worth $109 million was hanging in an Italian family's home for decades

The Carabinieri Cultural Protection Unit of Naples helped track down the 15th century painting.
Carabinieri for the Protection of Cultural Heritage
  • A Botticelli masterpiece presumed missing for over 50 years had been hanging in an Italian family's home.

  • Despite the painting being entrusted to the family for safekeeping, authorities had somehow marked it missing.

  • The 15th century portrait of the Virgin Mary and child was found in poor condition.

A Botticelli masterpiece reported missing for over half a century was found hiding in plain sight: hanging in an Italian family's home.

The Carabinieri Command for the Protection of Cultural Heritage traced the lost painting to a home in a town called Gragnano, near Naples, according to CNN.

The portrait of the Virgin Mary and child, painted in tempera on wood, was commissioned by the Roman Catholic Church in 1470 from artist Sandro Botticelli, per CNN.

Botticelli's most famous works include "The Birth of Venus" and "Primavera." The Italian authorities estimate the lesser-known painting, one of Botticelli's last, to be worth $109 million, according to the outlet.

close-up of the painting of Virgin Mary and baby Christ
Sandro Botticelli's painting of the Virgin Mary and Child.Carabinieri for the Protection of Cultural Heritage

The artwork had previously been housed at a church in Santa Maria la Carità but after an earthquake damaged the church, it was entrusted to a local family, the Sommas, which passed it down from generation to generation, CNN reported.

"The last time the authorities had inspected the private residence where the Botticelli painting was kept [was] over 50 years ago," said Massimiliano Croce, the commander of the carabinieri's cultural heritage unit, according to The Guardian.

"Since then, inexplicably, the painting had been forgotten by the authorities. When, after research on these works to be inspected, we realized that a painting by Botticelli had been located in a private home for over 50 years, we decided to inspect it," Croce continued.

Despite there being a record on file that the Somma family had the painting, which even the local mayor knew about, it somehow got added to the culture ministry's list of missing art, CNN reported.

Authorities will now have to determine if it was passed down properly or if it ended up in the wrong hands, Croce said, per ArtNews.

The painting accumulated some damage over the decades, and by the time it was retrieved, it was in poor condition, The Guardian reported.

Now, it must go through about a year of restoration work before it can once again be displayed for the public eye, the Italian culture ministry said, according to CNN.

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