‘Lost’ $100 million masterpiece recovered

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Sandro Botticelli’s canvas was found at a family home in southern Italy, a local official said

A work by Renaissance artist Sandro Botticelli thought to have been lost for 50 years has been found in the southern Italian town of Gragnano, local Mayor Nello D’Auria announced last week. The painting, which depicts the Virgin Mary and infant Christ, is believed to be among the last by the master and is valued at around €100 million ($108 million).

According to CNN, the Botticelli had been kept in the Santa Maria delle Grazie chapel since the early 1900s, after the church it was originally given to was destroyed by fire. After an earthquake damaged the chapel in 1982, the parish gave the canvas to a local family for safekeeping with the official decree on file, the outlet said, citing a spokesman for the Italian Ministry of Culture.

For the first few years, local authorities monitored the condition of the canvas and helped the family move and clean it until the checks stopped. The piece was listed on the Ministry of Culture’s inventory of missing works, according to CNN.

While that list was being updated, traces of the painting were seen this summer, Commander Massimiliano Croce said during the presentation of the find. He noted that the family “will retain ownership of the work, but it will be kept in a museum.”

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The canvas requires significant restoration as the painting shows detachments of the pictorial film, color falls, abrasions, and chromatic alterations due to repainting and the oxidation of superimposed protective paints.

The family kept the canvas for decades to protect it from the hands of art traffickers, claiming they knew nothing about it, Il Matino reported.

Botticelli died in 1510, and the recently discovered ‘Madonna and Child’ is believed to date from the late 15th century, during the final stages of his career.

The artist worked for the Medici family, during which time he painted his best-known work, ‘The Birth of Venus and Spring.’

Along with other artists, Botticelli was summoned to Rome in 1481 by Pope Sixtus IV to decorate the walls of the Sistine Chapel. His contribution consisted of three paintings, ‘The Life of Moses,’ ‘The Temptation of Christ,’ and ‘The Punishment of Corach.’

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