A painting of great value believed to be the work of Leonardo da Vinci has been seized on the orders of Italian police. The work was removed from a Swiss bank, after it was suspected that the work of art was moved out of Italy illegally. Italian prosecutors confirmed on Tuesday that the painting, which is a portrait of Renaissance noblewoman Isabella d’Este, had been seized from a vault in Lugano, near the Italian border.
Negotiations had been under way to sell the painting, which reportedly belongs to a wealthy Italian family based in Switzerland, for 120 million euros or £88.6 million at the time of its seizure – the prosecutors said in a statement. Authorities were alerted to the location of the work as long ago as 2013, by a local lawyer had been given a mandate to sell it for a minimum of 95 million euros.
Carlo Pedretti, a leading Italian da Vinci expert, has stated that he believes the work to be the completed oil version of the Mona Lisa artist’s sketch of d’Este, which now hangs in the Louvre in Paris. Although other experts have cast doubt on whether the painting is 100 percent the work of Leonardo, suggesting it could have simply been done in his style on the basis of the Louvre sketch, or even started by the master and completed at a later date by one or more of his students of the period.
Italy is often the target of art traffickers due to its extensive art heritage. The Swiss and Italian police recently uncovered a massive Swiss-Italian antiquities smuggling ring. Police seized 5,361 vases, bronze statues, and frescoes worth an estimated £38 Million, during a raid on a number of Swiss warehouses.