• gerard van weyenbergh

In 2020, Italy recovered 500,000 stolen artworks

"Even the Covid has not stopped art thieves," commented the transalpine Carabinieri police specializing in the protection of cultural property, taking stock of their catches on Thursday, April 29.

art expert
View of stolen art

In Italy, a famous work attributed to Banksy, stolen from the Bataclan in 2019, was found. The piece was presented to the press on June 11, 2020 at L'Aquila, in central Italy.

More than half a million stolen or counterfeit works of art, a total of 501,574 pieces, were recovered in 2020 by Italy, according to figures provided Thursday, April 29 by the Carabinieri responsible for protecting art heritage. The works have been taken both in Italy and abroad, they said, stressing that "even the Covid has not stopped art thieves" .

"The meticulous work of the Carabinieri has never stopped, even during this difficult year of health crisis", welcomed the Minister of Culture Dario Franceschini, quoted by the press release. "They have recovered and returned to their rightful owners works stolen and illegally exported."

A majority of antiques, archives and books

Most of the recovered objects concern the antiques, archives, and books sector (483,978). Then come archaeological and paleontological objects from clandestine excavations (17,956). In addition, 1,547 counterfeit works were seized for an amount of 415 million euros. Thefts, however, recorded a decrease of 17.6% over one year, especially those at the expense of public institutions: libraries (-50%), places of worship (-17%) and museums (-21%).

The Carabinieri are particularly proud to have recovered, in collaboration with Europol and Interpol, a Roman head of a female goddess until 1977 seen at the entrance to the Roman Forum in Rome and detached from its bust by thieves. A portrait of a gentleman attributed to Titian and illegally exported to Switzerland, estimated at six million euros, has also returned to the owner, as have precious old books found in London.

50 cultural sites inscribed on the heritage of humanity

Italy has 50 cultural sites listed as World Heritage by Unesco, making it the most endowed country in the world. This cultural wealth, inherited in particular from the Etruscans, Greeks, and Romans but also fueled among others by the Renaissance and the Baroque era, is the object of the covetousness of collectors from all over the world, who sometimes do not hesitate to take illegal routes to satisfy their passion.

© France Télévisions Writing Culture video of recovering Stolen Banksy in the Bataclan