A Botticelli masterpiece thought lost for over half a century has been found hidden in an Italian family’s home.

According to CNN, the Carabinieri Cultural Heritage Protection Command has traced the lost painting to a house in a town called Gragnano, near Naples.

The portrait of the Virgin Mary and Child, painted in tempera on wood, was commissioned by the Roman Catholic Church from artist Sandro Botticelli in 1470, according to CNN.

Botticelli’s most famous works include The Birth of Venus and Primavera. Italian authorities estimate the value of the lesser-known painting, one of Botticelli’s final paintings, at $109 million, according to the medium.

The artwork had previously been housed in a church in Santa Maria la Carità, but after an earthquake damaged the church, it was entrusted to a local family, the Sommas, who passed it down from generation to generation, CNN reported.

“The last time the authorities inspected the private house where the Botticelli painting was kept [was] over 50 years ago,” said Massimiliano Croce, the commander of the Carabinieri’s cultural heritage department, according to The Guardian.

“Since then, the painting has been inexplicably forgotten by the authorities. When, after researching these works to be viewed, we discovered that a painting by Botticelli had been in a private home for over 50 years, we decided to view it,” Croce continued.

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Although it was on record that the Somma family owned the painting, which even the local mayor knew about, it was somehow placed on the Culture Ministry’s list of missing works of art, CNN reported.

Authorities must now determine whether it was passed on properly or whether it fell into the wrong hands, Croce said, according to ArtNews.

The painting had suffered some damage over the decades and was in poor condition when it was recovered, The Guardian reported.

Now it needs about a year of restoration before it can be shown to the public again, the Italian Ministry of Culture said, according to CNN.

Source : www.scmp.com

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