The days of the Italian undersecretary of state for culture are numbered

Vittorio Sgarbi is summoned to shed light on a story of a stolen painting. The Secretary of State for Culture owns a painting by Rutilio Manetti identical to another stolen in 2013 with one difference: the presence of a candle. The Italian prosecutor’s office announced the opening of an investigation. He is suspected of having exposed it in 2021 after having modified it in order to cover his tracks. In any case, this is the conclusion of a report broadcast last December by the investigative journalism program Report on public television Rai.

The owner of The Capture of Saint-Pierre by the 18th century Mannerist painter Rutilio Manetti denounced in 2013 the theft of the canvas from his castle, specifying that it had been cut and removed from its frame. According to his testimony, a few weeks before the painting’s disappearance, a man came to ask him to buy it. Rai journalists identified him as a friend of Vittorio Sgarbi. He then handed over a torn canvas to a restoration expert who confirmed that it was indeed the one stolen from the castle and then exhibited in 2021. A theft crudely disguised by the addition in the left corner of the top of the work of a candle to avert suspicion.

Rutilio Manetti (1571-1639), The capture of Saint-Pierre1635-1637, oil on canvas, 233 x 204 cm.

Vittorio Sgarbi brushes aside these accusations. “There is no mystery, there are just two paintings”he asserts vehemently. “The painting stolen in 2013 is a bad copy dating from the 19th century while mine is an original and it was in the restaurant that the candle appeared”. His discovery is a miracle. ” Her “ painting was allegedly found in an abandoned villa purchased by Vittorio Sgarbi’s mother in 2000.

According to Sgarbi, the restaurant expert who incriminates him is seeking revenge because he owes him a large sum of money. He also deplores “the lack of support from the Minister of Culture [son ministre de tutelle] who blames him ». The two men have not spoken to each other since October 23. The opposition calls for the resignation of the Secretary of State. He is already the subject of another investigation, opened in October by the Italian competition watchdog, for having paid for his presence at conferences, a practice prohibited for members of the government.

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