Stolen 17th Century Italian Masterpiece Found in Casablanca

Rabat – A 17th century masterpiece, by Italian painter, Giovanni Francesco Barbieri, known as Le Guerchin (1591-1666), has been recovered by the judicial police of Hay El Hassini. The painting was stolen in 2014 from a church in northern Italy (Modena), according to MAP.After being checked by the carabinieri of the unit specializing in the protection of Italian cultural heritage, the painting was verified as “The Virgin, Saint John the Evangelist and Gregory the Thaumaturge,” painted by Le Guerchin in 1639, according to the prosecutor’s office. The 2.93 m by 1.84 m sized painting was stolen in August 2014 from the church of Saint Vincent of Modena. The masterpiece is estimated by experts to be valued somewhere between five and six million euros.“In the evening of Tuesday, the Moroccan authorities communicated, via Interpol, that during a survey of three of their compatriots, a large canvas that could correspond to a theft that occurred in Italy was found,” said the prosecutor in a statement.Three people were arrested on February 15 in possession of the work, suspected of being linked to a criminal gang specializing in antiquities trafficking, according to a statement from the Directorate General of National Security (DGSN), dated of February 17.The culprits were trying to sell the painting for 940,000 euros to a rich Moroccan entrepreneur in Casablanca, who, having recognized the value of the work, contacted the authorities. The Italian Minister of Culture Dario Franceschini said in a press release relayed by EFE the Spanish international news agency, on February 17, that “the Italian and Moroccan governments are working closely to ensure that this masterpiece goes back to Italy as quickly as possible and is returned to its community.”Investigations and research into databases for artworks declared stolen or mislaid by Interpol (International Criminal Police Organization), have confirmed the existence of a flight notice issued by the Italian security authorities concerning an historic painting meeting the same artistic dimensions and criteria, the DGSN said in a statement.According to the same source, as soon as Moroccan authorities confirmed the painting was indeed Guerchin’s, they contacted the Rome office of the International Police Organization. “The initial results of the investigation revealed, preliminarily, that this is indeed the historical painting that the Italian authorities had reported as stolen,” said the DGSN in a communiqué. The same source revealed that an inquiry has been opened with the Court of Appeal of Casablanca. read more