A Rubens Painting Is At the Center of a Criminal Investigation

It was temporarily removed from the museum where it was on display

Doge's Palace
The Doge's Palace, Genoa.
Jensens, Public Domain

If you visited the Doge’s Palace in Genoa in late 2022 hoping to see a certain painting by Peter Paul Rubens, you might have come away disappointed. Rubens’s The Resurrected Christ Appears to His Mother, which he painted from 1612 to 1616, was on display there as part of a larger exhibition on the painter’s time in Genoa — except for a few days when law enforcement moved it offsite as part of an ongoing investigation.

What were the origins of the case that prompted police to briefly confiscate a painting that’s over 400 years old? A new article in Smithsonian Magazine offers an overview of the case, which involves a controversial restoration and some ownership documents of dubious provenance.

According to the article, the issues began when a restoration of the painting revealed an earlier face of the Madonna, which is believed to have been painted as an earlier version of the artwork. The restoration team focused on this face and removed the paint covering it — a controversial decision.

Law enforcement is also investigating whether the painting’s current owners lied about its origins when sending it to Prague — specifically, saying that it was by an artist other than Rubens (and was, consequently, less valuable). At present, the painting’s owners — as well as an accountant and the accountant’s son — are at the center of the investigation. As for the painting, it’ll be on display until February.

The InsideHook Newsletter.

News, advice and insights for the most interesting person in the room.