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The world’s "most wanted" stolen Caravaggio painting can be found by police

By order of the Vatican, the experts were gathered in Rome to discuss the new clues in the case of the theft of Nativity with San Lorenzo and San Francesco, a priceless Caravaggio painting from a Palermo church 49 years ago.

They say there is a chance to find a lost artist’s masterpiece with recent events pointing to the artwork being hidden somewhere in Eastern Europe.
Caravaggio’s painting depicting Mary looking at the newborn baby Jesus, was cut from its frame by thieves using razor blades or box-cutters in October 1969 at the Oratorio of San Lorenzo in Palermo, Sicily.

The theft occurred the day after the picture was mentioned on a TV show about "forgotten treasures of art," writes Ansa. The theft of the Nativity takes the second place on the FBI’s list of the top ten unsolved art crimes, and the lost painting is often described as the world’s "most wanted."

Since its disappearance in 1969, no one could precisely determine whether it would be possible to return it. The story of an unsuccessful search was filled with intrigue, espionage, and allegations about the mafia involvement.
The painting was considered destroyed soon after its disappearance. Despite this, investigators, both local and international, have never refused to search for lost art.
The place where the painting once hung at the oratory of San Lorenzo, Palermo.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Today a high-quality copy of the Nativity, produced by an art laboratory in 2015, hangs in place of the original artwork above the altar in the Oratory of San Lorenzo. It was commissioned by the British Sky Broadcasting Corporation by the Spanish-Italian company Factum Arte — the famous creator of the replicas of other major works of art, including the tomb of Tutankhamen.
Above: at the opening ceremony of the copy of "Christmas" in the chapel of San Lorenzo on December 12, 2015. Photo:

A team of artists, architects and computer engineers had very little material to work with. Just a slide of a fragment of the painting and some black and white photographs of the 1950s were found in the archives. In order to most accurately reproduce the colors of flowers that Caravaggio used, experts studied three of his canvases in the Roman church of San Luigi dei Francesi, which were supposedly painted at the same time.

Left: Digitized fragment of the copy of "Nativity with Saint Francis and Saint Lawrence". Photo: EFE

Caravaggio is believed to have painted the Nativity in 1609 in Rome, just one year before his death in Porto Ercole, Tuscany. The hell-raising artist was just 38 when he died.

Then the canvas was transported to Sicily, where it hung for centuries in the chapel of San Lorenzo in Palermo. On the night of October 18, 1969, a picture of 2.68×1.97 meters in size was cut out of the frame by two unknown persons, and since then its fate has been covered in mystery. Among the various theories, there is such: a product worth more than $ 20 million was kept in a stable, where pigs and rats ate it, after which the remains of the canvas were burned. In any case, most experts agree that Cosa Nostra is involved in the crime.
And now the researchers say that they believe that Christmas has indeed survived and hinted at its possible location.

The painting has become "a symbol of the fight against the mafia," a Vatican spokesperson stated, adding that the meeting aimed to "reiterate the opposition to the mafia on the part of the Church" and get the search for the painting back into the public eye.

Alberti described the theft as a "civil and moral wound" that affects the whole of society.

Police investigators specialised in hunting down stolen art have found traces of the work and are convinced it’s still in one piece, Colonel Fernando Musella of the Carabinieri told a press conference.

Investigators have recently visited an unspecified city in Eastern Europe in connection with their enquiries, he added, hinting that there could yet be a happy ending to the story.

It appears that the recent investigations have disproved the claims of the repentant mafioso, as well as others before him, finding that he’d got it confused with another painting stolen from a Palermo church a year later.

In any case, we hope the search will be successful and
soon we’ll get to know the stunning news about "the most wanted" art find.
Based on materials from Local. it

Artists mentioned in the article
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