Vittorio Sgarbi, a prominent junior minister and art critic in Italy, resigned from his post amid accusations of laundering stolen goods, which he denies. The resignation statement was made before starting a lecture in Milan, where he stated that he was leaving his position “to avoid a conflict of interests”.
Investigation of a 17th century painting
Prosecutors are currently investigating allegations that Sgarbi stole and modified a 17th-century painting, “The Capture of St. Peter,” which was reported stolen in 2013. The work by Rutilio Manetti, a follower of Baroque master Caravaggio, was in display in a castle in the northern Italian region of Piedmont.
Accusations of changes to the original work
The accusations indicate that Sgarbi had tampered with the painting by adding a candle to the top corner to hide its provenance. However, the politician claims that he found the work during the restoration of a villa bought by his mother more than 20 years ago. Furthermore, he maintains that the painting in his possession is the original and that the one stolen in 2013 was a copy.
Other accusations involving works of art
The minister also faces charges relating to another work: a painting attributed to French artist Valentin de Boulogne, valued at €5 million (£4.3 million), which was seized by police in Montecarlo. Sgarbi is being investigated by a prosecutor for allegedly illegally exporting the painting. However, he claims that it is a copy and that it never belonged to him.
The allegations appeared on an Italian TV program
The allegations came to light during an investigation by the Italian television program “Report”. The castle owner who reported the painting stolen stated that the canvas was cut from the frame in 2013. Furthermore, she reported that a friend of Sgarbi had previously visited the property and expressed interest in purchasing the work.
This series of accusations led to Sgarbi’s resignation to avoid possible conflicts of interest while investigations are ongoing.