500-year-old Leonardo da Vinci copy museum did not know was stolen found in Italian apartment

Stolen 500-year-old Leonardo da Vinci copy found in Italian apartment

NAPLES, Italy — Italian authorities have recovered a copy of the most expensive painting ever sold from a bedroom cupboard in Naples and returned it to the museum that was completely unaware the portrait had been stolen.

Officers confirmed late Monday that the 36-year-old owner of the apartment in which a 500-year-old copy of Leonardo da Vinci’s “Salvator Mundi” was located has been arrested on suspicion of receiving stolen goods, The Guardian reported.

Da Vinci’s original sold at a 2017 Christie’s auction in New York for $450.3 million, Forbes reported.

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The masterful copy, believed to be the work of artist Giacomo Alibrandi and dating to the early 16th century, depicts Jesus Christ with his hands raised in a blessing and holding a crystal orb.

The copy had been part of the Doma Museum collection at the San Domenico Maggiore church in Naples, but due to novel coronavirus restrictions, the museum has been shuttered for months, and no one reported the painting missing, The Guardian reported.

“There was no complaint on the matter and, in fact, we contacted the (church) prior, who was not aware of its disappearance, as the room where the painting is kept has not been open for three months,” Naples prosecutor Giovanni Melillo stated, calling the copy’s recovery the result of “brilliant and diligent” police work.

According to Forbes, authorities are now investigating the heist as a possible commissioned theft because “nothing suggests that it was necessary to resort to a break-in or overcome obstacles,” Melillo stated. “Whoever took it wanted that painting, and it may be a plausible conjecture that it was a commissioned theft by an organization dedicated to the international art trade.”