6:45am

Tue May 24, 2011
Kentucky Arts and Culture

Stolen Art Returns to Italy

A piece of stolen artwork that’s been at the Speed Museum in Louisville for years will be returned to Italy.

The 14th century triptych painting of the Virgin Mary with Child was among several pieces of art stolen from an Italian estate forty years ago. The Speed purchased the piece from a New York gallery in 1973 for $38,000.

Now, through an agreement with the federal government, the Speed will relinquish the painting to Italian officials, who will determine the art’s rightful owner.

But before that happens, the piece will be on display in Louisville.

“We are working with the U.S. government to exhibit the work of art in June,” says Speed director Charles Venable. “We’re going to have it for a couple of weeks on view and contextualize it with information about what we’ve been doing and the research we’ve worked with the U.S. government and Italians on over the last couple of months.”

Court records show that Speed officials did not have any reason to think the painting was stolen when it was purchased. Further, the records show the museum cooperated with investigators and the courts, and the agreement to give up the piece is not an admission of any wrongdoing.

It’s not yet known whether the Speed will receive a refund for the art.

“We are in negotiations with the gallery that sold it originally to the Speed, and those are ongoing, so I really can’t comment on that. But it certainly is a possibility,” says Venable.