Caravaggio's painting Natività destroyed by mice and pigs

 The famous painting Natività con i Santi Lorenzo e Francesco di Assisi (Nativity with San Lorenzo and San Francesco), which was stolen over 30 years ago and had an estimated value of € 30 million, no longer exists.

That is at least what Gaspare Spatuzza, former hitman turned pentito (informer), stated in his testimony, as reported by the Italian newspaper  la Repubblica. The painting was handed for safe keeping to the Pullara family, part of the Santa Maria di Gesu clan in Palermo, who hid it in a farm outbuilding. "There it was eaten by rats and pigs, and so was burnt," so Spatuzza said.

Caravaggio (1571-1610) painted Natività in 1609 in Palermo, Sicily. The painting was stolen in the evening  of 17 and 18 October 1969 from oratory of San Lorenzo (Oratorio di San Lorenzo).

Francesco Marino Mannoia, a convicted heroin dealer whose mother, sister and aunt were murdered by the Mafia after he turned state's evidence, admitted taking part in the theft of the painting on a stormy night in October 1969. He said it had been damaged when it was ripped from the frame but had never revealed its location to police despite appeals from art foundations.

The motive for the theft has never been clear, although police believe that as the painting could not be sold on the open market it was stolen for a private collector to raise cash. Mannoia, testifying in 1996 at the trial of Giulio Andreotti, the former prime minister, on charges of links to the Mafia, claimed there had been a private buyer who wept at the sight of the damaged painting.

(Het Parool & Museum Security Network)

  • 21-1-2010

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