September 15, 2013

Italy loans Renaissance masterpiece to MFA, Boston as part of exhibit on recovery work by the Carabinieri Department for the Protection of Cultural Heritage

Piero della Francesca's "Senigallia Madonna"
Piero della Francesca's "Senigallia Madonna", a 15th century tempera and oil on panel, is on display through January 6, 2014, at Boston's Museum of Fine Arts. This cultural exchange is part of the Italian government's program, 2013 - The Year of Italian Culture in the United States.

In the Boston Globe, Geoff Edgers reports in "A museum, a heist, a rescued 'Madonna'":
The 24-by-21-inch work is a prime example of how a seemingly grim acknowledgment -- that the MFA had acquired works most likely looted from Italian soil -- has been turned into a bountiful cultural exchange. Back in 2006, under pressure and scrutiny from Italian investigators with photographic evidence that showed works looted sometime before they arrived in US museums, the MFA and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York struck deals to send objects back.
Here's a link to the MFA's website and a video about the work of the Carabinieri Department for the Protection of Cultural Heritage.

Edgers writes:
The loan of the Piero is part of a campaign by the Carabinieri, Italy's military police, to publicize their effort to recovery stolen artworks. So the MFA's Lee gallery will feature extensive wall labels detailing both the significance of the work as well as the tale of the theft.
Virginia Curry, who spoke at ARCA's first international art crime conference in 2009, was interviewed for the article:
Virginia Curry, a retired special agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, who has worked closely with the Carabinieri and also on the 1990 Gardner theft, said the MFA loan truly helps both parties. The MFA gets to show a priceless masterpiece. The Italians, sometimes criticized for reclaiming artworks on prime display in the United States and putting them in storage or in little-seen galleries, are able to share the country's culture.
“That’s really the purpose of it,” said Curry, who is based in Texas. “They’re showing that they’re willing to bring something back. That they’re not just going to demand the return of this material to be placed in a storehouse in Italy because they can’t display it as well as at the MFA or at the Metropolitan. They’re trying to show some responsibility and willingness to share their culture.”