Among the treasures on the way to Berlin was a neoclassical oil painting by Nicolas Poussin, “Loth avec ses deux filles lui servant à boire”. Biblical theme typical of the seventeenth century, bucolic background, masterpiece of an artist who – like many contemporaries – had established himself in Italy with the name of Niccolò Pussino and had died in Rome in 1665. Disappeared. And now found and returned to the legitimate heirs by the Carabinieri of the Nucleo protecting the cultural heritage of Monza, led by Major Francesco Provenza. It ended up in Padua, in the atelier of an antique dealer. Whether he knew, or not, of that tragic story, is now being studied by investigators, led by Milanese prosecutor Francesca Crupi.
Tracing history, including catalogs, certifications and complaints, was not easy even in this case for the weapon specialists. There were very few traces of the painting left, very dated and all of little use. Only on February 22, 1946, did the owners’ family members report the rape to the Commission de Récupération Artistique of the republican government of Paris, which included Poussin in the “Répertoire des biens spoliés en France durant la guerre 1939-1945”, published at the end of the 1940s. by the Bureau Central des Restitutions. Yet, despite the successful collaboration of Bonn and the West German police, the “Loth” remained in oblivion.
There he would have stayed if the eye of a Dutch art expert hadn’t recognized him among the works exhibited at an art fair in Maastricht at the end of 2019. Tracing the surviving descendants was another odyssey: one, 98, lives in Switzerland and the second, 65, in the US. Both, on May 25th, entrusted their complaint to the Cultural Heritage Protection Unit through the Milanese lawyer Giuseppe Calabi. And the searches started.
Tracing the last trajectory of Poussin – whose market value is now estimated at a few hundred thousand euros – was relatively easy. Less is filling the 77 years of darkness, from 1944 to today. It is known, for example, that before arriving in Padua, the “Loth” had had another Italian owner, another antique dealer, this time from Emilia, who had bought it from a French merchant and then put it up for sale in 2017. at an exhibition-market in Brussels. Nothing certain about the first. On the hands that took him away from Poitiers, on those who haggled and speculated on him. This is only the first half of the film. The act of recovery.
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