​Lost Italian Masterpiece Worth $100 Million Found in Local Family Home

A15th-century masterpiece by Sandro Botticelli, worth more than $100 million and seemingly misplaced for more than 50 years after disappearing from the Italian state’s art records, has been recovered from a family home near Naples.

The painting 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. The family displayed the painting their home for 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. The painting is believed to be one of the last Botticelli (1445-1510) produced. 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 died at 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.