The 594 stolen paintings that Italy returned to Mexico

Friday, March 08 16.31 GMT

The 594 stolen paintings that Italy returned to Mexico

The paintings stolen around the world represent a harmful practice that affects the culture and the artistic currents.

The black market of art responds to demand and to a market without rules, which bases its growth on counterfeiting, what deteriorates the artistic development of countries, peoples and communities.

That is why the most relevant cultural news of the first week of March of this year may be that Italy returned a total of 594 pieces that were stolen in the sixties.

Return of works to their true origin

Tras two years of research and diplomacy, the Italian Minister of Culture, Alberto Bonisoli, delivered the stolen paintings to the Secretary of Culture, Alejandra Frausto.

594 were hundreds of traditional ex-votos, small pieces of wood and cloth painted between eighteenth century and XX by unknown artists.

All of them as an offering of thanks or devotion to GodIn the Virgin or to some saint. These works were moved by sea to Italy by the black market.

The stolen paintings will return to religious temples of: Guanajuato, Zacatecas, Aguascalientes, Jalisco, San Luis Potosi, Michoacan, Puebla, Queretaro, Hidalgo, Tlaxcala, Veracruz and Mexico City.

About the state of conservation, the majority is appreciated in good conditions, although in other pieces unfortunately deterioration is perceived.

Discovering the theft

If you think about it for a moment, it is difficult to understand what led the Italian authorities to believe that the pieces were illegally extracted.

Everything was due to a control routine in a religious thematic show in Milan. There, the agents of the unit of Carabinieri for the Protection of the cultural heritage of Monza who began to suspect.

And it is that, something seemed strange in the pieces of the exhibition "Give us today our daily bread".

These suspicions gave way to opening of an investigation about stolen paintings and artistic goods acquired illegally.

In June of 2016, the Carabinieri began to follow the trail of the stolen paintings. They analyzed the iconography and the inscriptions.

Thanks to this, they discovered that the works were removed from different places of worship in Mexico between 1960 and 1970. All of them had ended up in two Italian museums, one in Lombardy and the other in Piedmont.

Immediate notice was given to the Mexican authorities and it was the INAH (National Institute of Anthropology and History) who confirmed the provenance of the works.

Cultural and heritage protection

Experts say that this return means a effort binational for eradicating the black market of art.

Therefore, Mexico, in 2018, established the Unit for the Protection of Cultural Heritage to protect the artistic, historical and cultural legacy of the country.

The Carabinieri, offer to Mexicans Training courses on cultural property safeguarding techniques.

Unquestionably, this fortunate society must be replicated and emulated thousands of times throughout the world to care for the cultural heritage of each country, a fundamental task to safeguard art.