Italian Police Recover Titian Portrait Lost for Nearly Two Decades

The Italian police unit in charge of cultural heritage announced they had recovered a portrait by Renaissance painter Titian that has been lost for nearly 20 years.

Discovered by a Turin branch of the cultural heritage unit, a subsidiary of the Italian state police known as the Carabinieri, the 16th-century work, titled Portrait of a Man with a Beret, first went missing two decades ago from an undisclosed location. Following its disappearance in 2004, authorities believed it had been taken to Switzerland illegally.

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The Renaissance painter was active during the 16th century as a member of the Venetian school. He gained fame for rendering aristocratic and mythical subjects in dramatic styles, and he served as a court painter to Italian nobles and members of the Austria’s Habsburg dynasty before his death in 1576.

The oil portrait, which depicts the bust of an anonymous bearded man donning a black cap and traditional garb, is said to be valued around $7 million, according to Italian officials. The price makes the painting among the more valuable works by the artist, whose auction record of $16.9 million was set in 2011 during a Sotheby’s sale of his painting Madonna and Child (ca. 1508).

The work was presented publicly by the Italian state in an official ceremony on May 19. The unit has not released details regarding the painting’s original owner and location. It is unclear if the work has been previously known to scholars.

Italian authorities uncovered the portrait in the Piedmont region of northwestern Italy, where it had been transported for restoration and held at a local studio in Asti. After learning of its whereabouts from an anonymous tip, the unit confiscated the work. Police have been investigating two Swiss citizens, neither of whom have been named by officials, over the painting’s theft, according to Forbes.

The recovery of the valuable Titian work is not the only successful confiscation the Carabinieri unit has executed recently. In March 2019, the cultural heritage force conducted a massive seizure that recovered some 10,000 artifacts trafficked from 28 countries, breaking up a large-scale criminal syndicate operating in the country.


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