By FRANCES D’EMILIO
ROME (AP) — Italy’s Arts Squad police said on Tuesday they foiled a potential illegal sale by a Vienna auction house of a 17th-century painting by renowned Baroque artist Artemisia Gentileschi .
Carabinieri police said art dealers allegedly described the work as being painted by a disciple of Gentileschi, not the artist herself, to fraudulently obtain an export permit from Italian authorities.
Gentileschi was unusual for succeeding as a female painter in the male-dominated art world of her time. She is also a symbol of brave women for testifying, even under torture, against a man who raped her in her bedroom when she was a teenager.
“The painting was about to be auctioned,” Carabinieri Lieutenant Colonel Alfio Gullotta told Italian public television in Bari, Italy, where the rendered masterpiece, “Caritas Romana” ( Roman Charity) was shown to journalists.
Gentileschi’s early work, with strikingly dark sections of his canvases contrasting with his illuminated subjects, reflects influences from the Baroque giant Caravaggio.
Several of her works offer a gory take on biblical or mythological stories, many of which focus on the struggle of strong women. In some of his paintings, the subjects are women wielding knives, swords or spikes against men.
A criminal investigation is in its early stages, said the Carabinieri, who began their investigation into the oil painting movements in 2020.
Authorities said the artwork was worth at least 2 million euros (dollars). It was commissioned by a nobleman from Puglia in the middle of the 17th century.
Italian authorities said they suspected that the middlemen, using a Tuscan-based middleman, were aiming to sell the painting abroad, and deliberately neglected to provide historical documentation of the work’s true origins.
The specialist art team includes police officers who regularly scan auction catalogs and online listings, looking for descriptions or images of works of art or antiques that have been stolen or are at risk of being stolen. be illegally exported from Italy.