Police Find Stolen San Lorenzo Painting

Police with the recovered painting

A late 19th century painting depicting the miraculous Madonna of Loreto was stolen from Florence’s basilica of San Lorenzo on March 17. The painting was found by the carabinieri police on March 19.

An employee of the Opera Medicea Laurenziana noticed the painting was missing from the altar of Compagnia delle Stimmate in the lower level of the basilica. The employee explained that the basilica is currently under restoration, and the theft could have occurred during the workers’ lunchtime.

From looking at security camera footage, the carabinieri came to the conclusion that between noon and 12:30 pm, a man opened the door to the lower level and went into the room where the altar of Compagna delle Stimmate is located. The cameras filmed the man walking out of the room holding the painting under his arm.

The carabinieri had an idea of who the suspect was, but no confirmation. Their suspicion was focused on a 35-year-old houseless man who has had previous run-ins with the law. The man has a current procedure in criminal court and has to present himself and sign in everyday at the Florence Uffizi carabinieri station to make sure that he does not leave town.

Their suspicions were confirmed through examining security footage of the police station from the day before the theft. They found that the man who went to the station that day was wearing the same clothes as the one who stole the painting.

When he went back to the station on March 18 to give his signature, he was told that he was identified as the thief. The man complied with authorities and led the carabinieri to a warehouse in Viale Giovane Italia, near Piazza Beccaria, where the painting was hidden in a cardboard box.  He was planning to sell the work on the black market trade of illicitly acquired antiquities.

Despite minimal damage to the frame, the painting was found in good condition. The 35-year-old was indicted for the theft of the painting concurrently with his previous charge. (Abby Capra)