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Italian police find stolen copy of Leonardo ‘Salvator Mundi’

The painting is a copy of the Salvator Mundi (Savior of the World) by Leonardo that sold for a record $450 million at a Christie's auction in 2017

By: AP | Rome |
January 21, 2021 2:10:24 pm
leonardo mundi, copyThe discovery was made when Naples police working on a bigger operation found the painting hidden in an apartment. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Italian police have recovered a 500-year-old copy of Leonardo da Vinci’s 16th century Salvator Mundi painting of Jesus Christ that was stolen from a Naples church during the pandemic without the priests even realizing it was gone.

The discovery was made when Naples police working on a bigger operation found the painting hidden in an apartment. Police chief Alfredo Fabbrocini said the apartment owner was detained after he offered a “less than credible” explanation that he had “casually” bought it at a market.

The painting is a copy of the Salvator Mundi (Savior of the World) by Leonardo that sold for a record $450 million at a Christie’s auction in 2017. The unnamed bidder was later identified as a Saudi royal who purportedly purchased it on behalf of the Louvre Abu Dhabi. It was supposed to have been unveiled a year later at the museum, but the exhibition was delayed indefinitely and the work hasn’t been seen in public since.

leonardo mundi, copy The painting is a copy of the “Salvator Mundi” (Savior of the World) by Leonardo that sold for a record 0 million at a Christie”s auction in 2017. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

The copy, attributed to the Leonardo school but not the Renaissance artist himself, had been housed in a small museum in a side chapel of the Basilica of San Domenico Maggiore in Naples, which had been closed during the coronavirus pandemic.

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Fabbrocini said the discovery was particularly satisfying “because we resolved a case before it was created.” He explained: “The painting was found but its custodian hadn’t realised it was stolen.”

The painting depicts a robed Jesus holding a crystal orb and gazing directly at the viewer. The San Domenico basilica says the painting was probably made by a Leonardo student in the 1520s and purchased by Giovan Antonio Muscettola, an adviser to Emperor Charles V and ambassador to the papal court. It was housed in the basilica’s Muscettola family chapel.

It was restored prior to being exhibited in a 1983-1984 show “Leonardo and Leonardism in Naples and Rome.”

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