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Amid stolen painting allegations, Italian Culture Minister Vittorio Sgarbi resigns.

Italian junior culture minister, Vittorio Sgarbi, has stepped down amid allegations of involvement in laundering stolen goods, accusations he vehemently denies. Sgarbi, a prominent art critic, announced his resignation in Milan, expressing a desire to prevent a conflict of interest. Authorities are currently investigating claims that he stole and tampered with a 17th-Century painting titled “The Capture of Saint Peter” by Rutilio Manetti, a follower of Caravaggio.

The painting, reported stolen in 2013, originally adorned a castle in Piedmont, northern Italy. Sgarbi is accused of altering it by adding a candle to obscure its true origin. He asserts that he came across the original painting while restoring a villa acquired by his mother over two decades ago, maintaining that the stolen version was a mere replica.

These allegations surfaced during an inquiry conducted by the Italian TV program “Report” on Rai. The owner of the castle, who reported the theft, claimed that the canvas had been cut from the frame in 2013. She also revealed that a friend of Sgarbi had expressed interest in purchasing the painting during a previous visit.

The “Report” program disclosed that another associate of Sgarbi subsequently handed a damaged version of “The Capture of Saint Peter” to a restorer, featuring a hole matching the shape of the missing canvas from the 2013 theft. When Sgarbi exhibited the restored work in 2021, it included the added candle in the top corner.

In addition to these accusations, Sgarbi is also facing allegations related to another painting attributed to the French artist Valentin de Boulogne. Valued at €5 million (£4.3 million), the painting was seized by police in Montecarlo. Sgarbi is under investigation for the alleged illegal export of the painting, yet he contends that it is a copy and does not belong to him.

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