ICE Recovers a 19th Century Italian Painting Stolen from a Monastery Nearly Two Decades Ago
By: Rebecca Anderson
“The Assumption of the Virgin Mary” was an oil painting created by the great Italian artist Giuseppe Pappini in August of 1851.
For over a century, the work of art was admired by many onlookers, but was stolen from its home—a monastery at the Abbey of Santa Maria in Sylvis in Sesto al Reghena, Italy—in May of 2002, and was perceived lost.
That is until officers from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) team in Dallas, Texas recovered it this week.
“Investigating the loss or looting of cultural heritage properties and returning them to their countries of origin is an important part of HSI’s diverse mission” said Ryan L. Spradlin, special agent in charge of HSI Dallas.
According to ICE, officers were able to locate the painting after receiving a tip from the HIS Attache Office in Rome, Italy last year. With the provided information, they said they were able to track the stolen piece to a private art collector in Dallas who bought it in 2015 from an Italian art dealer, not knowing of its stolen origins.
“Our specially trained investigators and attachés in more than 40 countries not only partner with governments, agencies and experts who share our mission to protect these items, but they train the investigators of other nations and agencies on how to find, authenticate and enforce the law to recover these items when they emerge in the marketplace,” said Spradlin.
The art collector, after learning of the painting’s cultural importance, volunteered to return the masterpiece back to its rightful owner in Italy.