Italy is certainly at the forefront as far as the protection of its artistic heritage is concerned. In 1969 a cultural heritage protection unit of the Italian police was established which has since ensured that any illegal trade of artworks is vigorously pursued. Today the team numbers around 280 dedicated investigators who protect Italy’s cultural treasures from natural threats like flooding and earthquakes as well as looting and trafficking. Earlier this year they aided an international recovery of nearly 10,000 ancient artifacts from 28 different countries. Last year, they seized 500 counterfeit Francis Bacon works which broke up the forgery ring.
Recently Italy’s art squad recovered a portrait by Renaissance master Titian thought to have been lost. The artwork, titled “Portrait of a Man with a Beret”, disappeared in 2004 and was thought to have been illegally exported to Switzerland after which it then seemed to vanish. Nearly two decades later, the art cops came across the Renaissance portrait in a workshop in Piedmont where it had been taken for restoration. Authorities issued a confiscation order and the masterpiece was returned to the Italian state in an official ceremony. The painting has been valued at a little over $7 million.
Main image – Portrait of a gentleman in a black cap, attributed to Titian. Sourced from ArtNews