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Scotland Yard seizes £10m old masters

Charlotte Higgins, arts correspondent
Wednesday March 26, 2008
The Guardian

A pair of old masters by Francesco Guardi worth £10m have been seized by Scotland Yard after they were allegedly exported from Italy illegally.

The paintings – The Departure of the Bucintoro to San Nicolo on the Lido, and The Return of the Bucintoro to the Palazzo Ducale – depict scenes from the old Venetian tradition in which the doge would go out on a bucintoro galley to symbolically marry Venice to the sea. They date from around 1780.

FRANCESCO GUARDI The Departure of the Bucintoro to San Nicolo on the Lido 

A source at the Italian public prosecutor’s office in Rome confirmed that the pictures had been seized in Britain at the request of the Italian authorities.

The paintings were owned by Mario Crespi, whose family owned the Corriere della Sera newspaper. After his death in 1962 the works remained with his family, but were sold three years ago to a dealer.

Italian art export laws are strict, and important paintings can only leave the country with a special licence. The glut of artworks within Italy, meanwhile, means paintings of this kind fetch far less on the domestic market than abroad. It is understood that when an export licence for the Guardis was given in Milan, it was without their provenance being made clear.

The works were passed on to a UK dealer, who apparently sold them on to the US. However, the works were seized before they left the country.

[ click to view original article at Guardian UK

Posted on March 26, 2008 by Editor

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