The trail of stolen art ends in Charlotte.
A 350-year-old statue that disappeared from a Naples church was found in the home of a Charlotte couple
The statue lost much of its value because of extensive damage. In addition to the head’s being removed, a part of the cross the saint carried was missing and much of the paint had deteriorated. Ice research indicated the current value at about $27,000.
A 350-year-old statue disappeared from a Naples, Italy church in an elaborate heist of artefacts nearly two decades ago.
Italian officials said they lost a national treasure.
The intricately carved bust of St Innocent traveled from Italy to France – losing its head in the journey – before finding its way to the private home of a Charlotte, North Carolina couple, where it was seized by federal officials.
It will be returned to Italy this month, federal officials announced yesterday.
“I’ve never heard of this happening anywhere other than some big-time story in New York,” said Neal Johnson, the Charlotte dealer who purchased the item from a Greensboro dealer and then sold it to the Charlotte couple. “You don’t always know the lineage of pieces you buy.”
The bust, by 17th-century Franciscan artist Diego da Careri, is made of wood and painted gold. It was part of a set of busts displayed at the church of Santa Maria degli Angeli alle Croci.
In November 1990, someone stole the statue, 15 similar busts and two oil paintings.
Using documents and photos, US immigration and customs enforcement (Ice) and Italian authorities confirmed authenticity of the statue last week.
Officials said the investigation into the original heist continues. Brandon Montgomery, Ice spokesman, said no Americans have been charged. There is no evidence they knew they were buying a stolen item.
“A lot of times, what happens is the person who is knowingly stealing something puts it in the black market,” he said. “It can go through three or four hands before it gets to the first legitimate buyer, so to speak.”