A 15th-century painting by Sandro Botticelli, worth €100 million, or $108,640,000 U.S. dollars, was forgotten for over 50 years after disappearing from the Italian state’s art records and has been recovered from a family home near Naples. The 23” x 31” work, painted in tempera on wood, was initially displayed in a church in Santa Maria la Carità. When an earthquake damaged the church in 1982, the painting was given to a local family for safekeeping. They went on to display it in their private home for many years. For some indeterminate reason, it vanished from the Italian state’s art records, and local authorities continued to monitor the painting. However, sometime in the 1990s, this supervision inexplicably ceased.

Even though the artwork had been in the family’s possession the entire time, it was eventually included on the list of lost works maintained by the Italian Ministry of Culture. The painting depicts the Virgin Mary holding baby Jesus on her lap. This painting is believed to be one of the last Botticelli produced before his death in 1510. The estimated value of the painting is €100 million—$108,640,000 U.S. dollars.

The reclaimed painting, according to art historian Peppe Di Massa, is among Botticelli’s most treasured pieces because it features a Madonna that was influenced by Simonetta Cattaneo Vespucci, the artist’s muse, who passed away at the age of 23.

The work is referenced in English author Ronald W. Lightbown’s biography of Botticelli. The painter gave the piece to Pope Sixtus IV, who subsequently gave it to the small country church in the Santa Maria la Carità municipality of Naples, hoping to curry favor with the Medici family.

Experts determined that the artwork was severely damaged, with several abrasions and chromatic changes brought on by varnish oxidation. It will now be subjected to a lengthy restoration process with the goal of allowing the public to view it at last.

There will be no criminal investigation because an official decree indicates that the family was asked to safeguard the painting.

Photographs courtesy of Carabinieri for the Protection of Cultural Heritage, Italy.

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