A British art collector who bought a pair of 17th century marble angels from a Neapolitan antique store two decades ago returned the winged ‘putti’ to the Italian art police after learning that ‘they had been stolen from a church.
Italian Carabinieri Art Police said the anonymous collector attempted to resell the angels at an antique store in Avignon, France, ahead of his planned move from France to Portugal when French Art Police picked them up. flagged as potentially stolen items.
Italian artistic police said on Tuesday that the angels, decorated with strategically placed vine leaves and fruit, were stolen from the Church of San Sebastian in Guardia Sanframondi, northeast of Naples, on December 13, 1989. Police said the collector was unaware of the origin of the angels and offered to return them without any legal fights.
They were officially handed over to Italy on Tuesday during a ceremony at the French Embassy.
In a statement, the Carabinieri noted that churches in the region were the subject of numerous thefts after the Irpinia earthquake in 1980 razed huge swathes of southern Italy.
Police noted that another group of angels, also reported as stolen in the Carabinieri database, had recently been returned to another Guardia Sanframondi church after being located in an antique store in Milan and recognized by the pastor of the church.