Skip to main content

An Italian court has ruled that a major art collection belonging to a failing bank should be sold in order to raise funds to repay customers who lost their life savings. But there is a catch: Valuable paintings, including a Caravaggio worth millions, cannot physically be moved from their location due to national heritage laws.

of Caravaggio The crowning with thorns is one of more than 100 works of art formerly belonging to the collapse of the Banca Popolare di Vicenza, which went bankrupt in 2017 after its chairman was found guilty of “market rigging”, according to a report published in The temperature. A total of 124 paintings are kept in the bank’s former office in Prato; others are exhibited in a museum in Vicenza.

The bank’s assets were then transferred to Intesa Sanpaolo, one of Italy’s largest banks, for a €1 token as part of a plan to end the crisis in the country’s financial system. The bank was also to receive 5.2 billion euros ($5.9 billion) of taxpayers’ money to pay off Popolare’s bad loans and those of another troubled bank. It received an additional 12 billion euros ($13.7 billion) in guarantees to protect it against major losses.

Intesa Sanpaolo did not respond to a request for comment.

Today an Italian court ordered the sale of assets which include the bank’s art collection, including works by Tiepolo, Bellini and Tintoretto, as well as Caravaggio, which depicts a crown of thorns placed on the head of Christ. It was finally authenticated in 2017, even though The temperature reported as early as 2006 that the painting, which was then on display at the Church of San Bartolomeo della Certosa in Genoa, had been restored by art experts who believed it to be an authentic unfinished work rather than the original. copy that it had been considered before.

Caravaggio, Jupiter, Neptune and Pluto (circa 1597). Collection of the Villa Aurora.

But a national heritage order says the paintings must stay where they are.

“It will be very penalizing from the point of view of the price”, lawyer and journalist Gloria Gatti, collaborator of Giornale dell’Arte, told Artnet News in an email. (She is not involved in the sale.)

There is currently an appeal challenging the court’s characterization of the art as inseparable and irremovable. If successful, “the works would become more attractive to the Italian market,” Gatti said.

The bank will be required to put a value on the collection, but it has not yet been made public. For paintings sold, Gatti suggested going through the Pandolfini auction house, which previously oversaw the collection.

Follow Artnet News on Facebook:


Want to stay one step ahead of the art world? Subscribe to our newsletter to receive breaking news, revealing interviews and incisive reviews that move the conversation forward.