Italian Culture Minister investigated over painting theft

Junior Culture Minister Vittorio Sgarbi is also a renowned art critic, historian and TV personality

A minister in Italy has been accused of having and showing a stolen painting from the 1600s, but he says it’s not true.

The newest claims against a member of Italy’s government focus on Vittorio Sgarbi, who is a well-known art critic.

Mr Sgarbi is being investigated for hiding stolen things after putting the painting in a show in 2021.

In 2013, “The Capture of Saint Peter” was stolen.

Rutilio Manetti, a painter who followed Baroque style like Caravaggio, used to have his painting shown in a castle in northern Italy, in Piedmont.

Mr Sgarbi, who is on TV and has a history of using bad language and lying about people, is accused of changing the painting by putting a candle in the corner to hide where it came from.

The politician said he discovered the job while renovating a house his mother bought over twenty years ago. He says the painting is the real one, but the one that was stolen in 2013 was just a fake.

The accusations were found in a report by the TV show ‘Report’ on the Italian channel Rai. The person who owns the castle said that the painting was stolen in 2013. She also mentioned that one of Mr. Sgarbi’s friends had come to see the property before and wanted to buy the art piece.

The report also said that a friend of the politician gave a damaged painting called “The Capture of Saint Peter” to someone who fixes paintings later. It was said that the hole had the same shape as a piece of the canvas that was cut out of the Piedmont castle frame in 2013.

In 2021, Mr Sgarbi showed the restored painting with a candle added in the top corner.

The junior minister is being accused of owning an expensive painting by a French artist. The painting, worth €5m, was taken by police in Montecarlo. Mr Sgarbi is being looked into by a lawyer for sending the painting out of the country unlawfully. He said that it is a copy and that he did not own it. The BBC tried to talk to Mr Sgarbi, but he didn’t answer.

Other political parties want Mr. Sgarbi to be fired. The Five Star Movement will propose a motion in parliament to remove him from his position.

The Italian government is embarrassed again because a member of the ruling party is being investigated for bringing a gun to a New Year’s Eve party and accidentally shooting someone. Emanuele Pozzolo says he didn’t shoot the gun, but the Prime Minister, Giorgia Meloni, has stopped him from working for now.

MsMeloni’s political party, Brothers of Italy, is doing well in the polls and her alliance with other right-wing parties seems strong at the moment.

Before the European elections in June, all parties will try to take advantage of any weaknesses or opportunities they can find. She has already publicly argued with her coalition partner Matteo Salvini.

This year, politics in Italy could become even more unpleasant. The prime minister wants to avoid having three scandals happening at the same time.


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