A large Guercino painting that was stolen from a church in Modena in August 2014 has been traced by Italy’s Carabinieri art crime squad to Casablanca, Morocco. The Italian government is negotiating to return Madonna with the Saints John the Evangelist and Gregory the Wonderworker (1639) to the Church of San Vincenzo “as soon as possible”, the Italian culture minister Dario Franceschini says in a statement.
The Baroque altarpiece, which measures ten by six feet, had not been insured and its alarm was inactive due to a lack of funding, church officials told Italian media at the time of the theft. The thieves were believed to have hidden inside the church after Sunday mass—one of the rare occasions it was open to the public.
According to Italian media reports, three men have been arrested for attempting to sell the painting to a collector in Casablanca for the sum of ten million dirham, around £800,000. Recognising the picture from photographs as Modena’s stolen Guercino, he reported them to local police, who alerted Interpol and the Comando Carabinieri Tutela Patrimonio Culturale.