A priceless Botticelli found in a private home after more than 50 years of forgetting

One of the last works of Sandro Botticelli (1445-1510) emerges from oblivion. We had lost track of it for more than fifty years. There Madonna delle Grazie, dated 1470, was found in a private home in Gragnano near Naples. Art historians knew this painting which was one of the favorites of the great Renaissance Maestro. The features of the Virgin were in fact inspired by those of Simonetta Vespucci, one of her muses and lovers. The artist then gave it to Sixtus IV (1414-1484).

The Pope then offered it to the Medici to attract their goodwill but above all their funds to complete the construction of the Sistine Chapel. The Madonna thus arrives in a country church on one of the southern Italian properties of the famous Tuscan family. Exhibited for a long time in a chapel of Santa Maria la Carità, near Naples, it was then entrusted to the Somma, a local family, who passed it down from generation to generation.

Aware of the value of the painting, the Italian state had three times decreed a ban on leaving the territory, in 1931, 1941 and 1968. Then it had completely lost interest in it, allowing it to fall rather inexplicably into oblivion but especially in deplorable conservation conditions.

This is what pushed the carabinieri for the protection of cultural heritage to intervene. “When we realized that a Botticelli painting had been in a private house for more than fifty years, we decided to inspect it,” explains Commander Massimiliano Croce. We have observed numerous signs of abrasion and chromatic alterations which require urgent restoration. » It will last at least a year and will then be exhibited in Naples.

In the meantime, the authorities will seek to establish whether the Somma family still retains ownership rights to the work, the value of which is estimated at 100 million euros. However, it should not end up on the market but in a museum.

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