Italy’s police art squad has recovered a portrait by Renaissance master Titian thought to have been lost. The painting was discovered by the Turin branch of the carabinieri’s Cultural Heritage Protection Unit in what has been described as an “extraordinary find.”
The artwork, titled “Portrait of a Man with a Beret”, disappeared in 2004. It was thought to have been illegally exported to Switzerland where it then seemed to vanish.
Nearly two decades later, Italy’s art cops came across the Renaissance portrait in a workshop in the Asti area of Piedmont where it had been taken for restoration. Authorities issued a confiscation order and the masterpiece has been returned to the Italian state in an official ceremony.
Police have been investigating two Swiss citizens over the disappearance of the painting.
The portrait, which depicts a gentleman with a red beard and a black cap, is attributed to Tiziano Vecellio, known in English as Titian, one of the most prominent artists of the Renaissance period. The painting has been valued at a little over $7 million.
Italy’s specialized art squad was established in 1969 and has since helped the country remain at the forefront of the fight against the illegal trade of artworks. The team now numbers around 280 investigators who protect Italy’s cultural treasures from natural threats like flooding and earthquakes as well as looting and trafficking.
In March, the Italian art cops aided an international recovery of nearly 10,000 ancient artifacts from 28 different countries. Last year, they seized 500 counterfeit Francis Bacon works and broke up the forgery ring responsible.