The Mystery of the Lost Caravaggio was an arts documentary with a difference and I was so proud to take part in it in 2015. As well as tracing the life and dramatic exile of the original bad boy of art history, Caravaggio, it also traced the 1969 theft of his masterful work 'The Nativity' from this gorgeous little Oratory in Palermo.
Meanwhile the genius team at Factum Arte made a digitally perfect replica of the original painting. Those lovely souls at Sky Arte Italia had the new painting installed in the original frame so we might all appreciate Nativity 2.0. It might not have his hand but it looks pretty fine to me and is certainly an improvement on the heartbreaking presence of the empty frame. I loved learning how you go about conjuring such a fantastic object using technology and a very thin amount of photographic originals.
This is still one of the worst unsolved art crimes in history. The painting (priceless although listed by the FBI as worth $20 million) was likely stolen by the mafia and there are many versions of the events of that rainy night and what happened to the canvas after it was roughly cut and bundled out. It became a surprising subject of the notorious mafiosi trials in the 1990s. It could survive hidden, or be in some high security home or it could have been eaten by pigs in a rural Sicilian farm. Maybe the copy will stir up some new useful memories?
Very happy to visit it in person finally and touched that the women on the reception desk recognized me from the programme which aired last year .. we have some new Palermo friends!
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