In a stunning revelation, a long-lost masterpiece painted by 15th-century artist Sandro Botticelli has been unearthed in a house in Gragnano, near Naples, Italy. The painting, depicting the Virgin Mary and Child Jesus and valued at an estimated $109 million, had vanished from the public eye since the 1980s.
A Divine Discovery
The artwork, a tempera on wood measuring 58 x 80 centimeters, was originally commissioned by the Roman Catholic Church in 1470. For much of the early 20th century, it held pride of place in a church in Santa Maria la Caritï¿1⁄2. However, its journey took a dramatic turn following a devastating earthquake in 1982. To safeguard the priceless artifact, it was entrusted to a local family named Somma. Despite an official decree assigning the painting to the church, supervision dwindled in the 1990s, marking the beginning of the painting's mysterious disappearance.
The Unseen Masterpiece
Over the years, this Botticelli masterpiece was displayed in the homes of the Somma family, unbeknownst to the wider world. The Carabinieri's Cultural Heritage Protection Unit, dedicated to preserving Italy's rich artistic heritage, recently traced the artwork back to the family. Although the Somma family retains the title to the work, it is set to be preserved in a museum.
Restoration and Future Exhibit
The rediscovered painting, however, bears the scars of time and natural calamities. It requires extensive restoration due to paint loss and scratches, likely incurred from the 1980 earthquake and its subsequent relocations. It is believed to be one of the last works of Botticelli before his demise in 1510. The painstaking restoration process is expected to take at least a year before the public can behold the masterpiece in one of Naples' national museums.