Thieves steal fake masterpiece in police sting

Angelo Anderson
March 16, 2019

Last month, police in Castelnuovo Magra received a tip that a group was planning on making off with Crucifixion, a 17th century painting by Pieter Brueghel the Younger.

Little did they suspect that police had caught wind of their plan to swipe the painted 43cm x 67cm wooden panel and substituted a copy a few weeks ago.

He said the theft would have been a "hard blow for our community".

The surveillance footage of the raid is now being carefully studied and investigators are chasing down those responsible.

Their target? "The Crucifixion" by Pieter Brueghel the Younger - a 17th-century depiction of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.

They are now studying the footage after robbers broke in to the church with a crowbar and smashed the artwork's display case with a hammer.

"Rumours began to circulate that someone could steal the work and the carabinieri made a decision to put it in a safe place, replacing it with a copy and installing some surveillance cameras", explained Mayor Daniele Montebello, who helped keep the subterfuge under wraps before and even after the heist.

Santa Maria Maddalena the church in Castelnuovo Magra where the painting is kept
Santa Maria Maddalena the church in Castelnuovo Magra where the painting is kept

Police in Italy are unconcerned about the daring theft of a Flemish master's painting - because they had replaced it with a fake a month ago.

Now, the Italian police are hunting down the thieves.

Montebello admitted on Wednesday night that the stolen painting had been a fake.

He also thanked members of the church who had "noticed that the one on display was not the original, but did not reveal the secret". They are believed to have stolen it on commission.

Originally bought from Bruegel by an Italian ambassador to the Netherlands, the painting was owned for a while by a family of Italian nobles before being donated to the church in the 19th century.

In 2017, more than 100 works of religious art worth a combined €7 million (R114 million) were recovered following an investigation by the Italian police.

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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