A painting by Sandro Botticelli, missing from Italian art records for over 50 years, has been rediscovered in a family home near Naples. The 15th-century artwork, valued at around €100million, was originally housed in a church in Santa Maria la Carità before being entrusted to a local family.
Massimiliano Croce from the carabinieri command for the protection of cultural heritage revealed, “The last time the authorities had inspected the private residence where the Botticelli painting was kept [was] over 50 years ago. Since then, inexplicably, the painting had been forgotten by the authorities.” The painting, showing signs of poor condition with abrasions and chromatic alterations, will undergo extensive restoration for eventual public display.
An investigation is underway to determine the rightful ownership of the artwork, passed down through generations in the family. Croce explained, “If we were to verify that the family who owned it was not entitled to keep it, then it will pass into the hands of the state. Otherwise, it could remain the property of the family but exhibited in a museum to ensure greater security.”
Despite being listed as a work of public interest in the Italian state’s records, individual ownership is permissible as long as the owner guarantees its security and preservation. Art historian Peppe Di Massa highlighted the significance of the recovered painting, depicting Botticelli’s muse Simonetta Cattaneo Vespucci, and expressed hope that it would find its rightful place in a museum.
The painting, originally donated by Botticelli to Pope Sixtus IV and later given to a rural church to secure favour with the powerful Medici family, reflects a historical connection between art and political strategy.