Italian police find stolen copy of Leonardo da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi

Lawrence Kim
January 21, 2021

Rome: A 500-year-old painting, stolen from a Naples' church museum, has been discovered in an apartment on the outskirts of the southern Italian city, police said on Tuesday.

The Italian news agency AGI reported that the painting, widely attributed to Leonardo da Vinci, was part of the Duma collection at the Basilica di San Domenico Maggiore in Naples.

Police said the 36-year-old owner of the flat was arrested on suspicion of receiving stolen goods.

Police are trying to ascertain how it was stolen, said Giovanni Melillo, a Naples prosecutor.

Salvatore Mundi, a depiction of Christ as savior of the world, is believed to have been painted around 1500 for King Louis XII - shortly after the French king invaded the Duchy of Milan and took control of Genoa.

Police did not specify when the painting was stolen, but the museum reported having the work in its possession in January of previous year when it was returned from exhibit in Rome.

But the collection has been without visitors for months due to coronavirus restrictions and nobody had reported it missing. "It is plausible that it was a theft commissioned by an organisation working in the global art trade", he said. Though it is not known who painted this particular copy, according to the museum's website, "there are several hypotheses", and the "most convincing" credits his student Girolamo Alibrandi.

Leonardo de Sir Piero da Vinci, most commonly Leonardo da Vinci or simply Leonardo, was one of the greatest individuals of the past millennium. There are fewer than 20 Leonardo paintings in existence.

The original Salvator Mundi has had major cosmetic surgery - its walnut panel base has been described as "worm-tunnelled" and at some point it seems to have been split in half.

The unidentified buyer was involved in a bidding contest, via telephone, that lasted almost 20 minutes.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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