Nativity with St. Francis and St. Lawrence

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Nativity with St. Francis and St. Lawrence
MediumOil on canvas
Dimensions268 cm × 197 cm (106 in × 78 in)

The Nativity with St. Francis and St. Lawrence (also known as The Adoration) is a painting traditionally believed to have been created in 1609 by the Italian Baroque master Caravaggio. Recent discoveries link the painting to that commissioned by Fabio Nuti in April 1600, and thus sent from Rome to Palermo.

It was stolen on October 18, 1969 from the Oratorio di San Lorenzo in Palermo, Sicily.

The painting, which hung above the altar, was large, measuring almost six square metres (actual size 268 cm x 197 cm). Probably because of its size, it was removed from its frame by two thieves[1] before being taken out of the church. After it was stolen, the Oratory was pillaged of other art, along with choir stalls of carved and gilded wood and benches inlaid with precious woods and mother of pearl.[citation needed]

The local Sicilian Mafia are generally considered to be the prime culprits in the theft although nobody actually knows who committed the crime. The whereabouts of the work remain unknown to this day. Rumours of its destruction during the theft, or subsequently in the 1980 Irpinia earthquake, have circulated from time to time as has the notion that the masterpiece is now hidden abroad. In 1996, Francesco Marino Mannoia, an informant and former member of the Sicilian Mafia, claimed he had stolen the painting as a young man on the orders of a high-ranking mobster, but other sources say it was stolen by amateurs and then sold on to various Mafiosi; at one point it is said to have ended up in the hands of Rosario Riccobono, who was killed in 1982, after which it passed on to Gerlando Alberti.[2] In 2009, Gaspare Spatuzza, a former Mafia figure turned police informer, claimed that he was told in 1999 that the painting was stolen for a private collector but had been destroyed by rats and pigs while hidden in a farm outbuilding and the remains burned.[3][4]

The Nativity is one of the most famous unrecovered stolen works of art; its theft is on the FBI's top ten list of art crimes.[1] The value, if the work was ever sold, is estimated to be $20 million[1]; though resale value on the black market, especially for an infamous work of art, is nowhere near the actual value. On the black market, stolen art fetches perhaps a tenth of its estimated value if it can even be sold at all.[5]

In 2016, a reproduction of the painting was commissioned by Sky and produced by Factum Arte. The replica was then permanently installed in the chapel, in the place of the original, with an official ceremony in the presence of the President of the Republic, Sergio Mattarella. In the same year, Sky produced the international documentary Mystery of the Lost Caravaggio by Sky Arts Production Hub, which tells the story of the Nativity and the life of the artist. Through interviews and archive material, the documentary tells the story of the theft of the work in 1969, the process of reproduction and the technologies used to recreate the Nativity. The documentary debuted on January 27, 2017 on Sky Arts.[6][7][8][9][10]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "Theft of Caravaggio's Nativity with San Lorenzo and San Francesco". Federal Bureau of Investigation. Retrieved October 25, 2018.
  2. ^ Will we ever see it again?, The Daily Telegraph, February 5, 2005
  3. ^ Lost Caravaggio painting 'was burnt by Mafia' Times Online, December 9, 2009
  4. ^ Mafia informer asked to solve mystery of stolen Caravaggio, The Guardian, November 28, 2005
  5. ^ Dickey, Christopher; Bradford, Harry (May 19, 2010). "Hot Potatoes". The Daily Beast. Archived from the original on January 16, 2012. Retrieved October 25, 2018.
  6. ^ Neuendorf, Henri (December 11, 2015). "Caravaggio Masterpiece Stolen in Notorious Mafia Heist Replaced with Replica". Artnet News.
  7. ^ Kirchgaessner, Stephanie (December 10, 2015). "'Restitution of a lost beauty': Caravaggio Nativity replica brought to Palermo". The Guardian.
  8. ^ Squires, Nick (December 10, 2015). "How a long-lost Caravaggio masterpiece was recreated, nearly 50 years after it was stolen". The Telegraph.
  9. ^ Vivarelli, Nick (December 18, 2015). "How a long-lost Caravaggio masterpiece was recreated, nearly 50 years after it was stolen". Variety.
  10. ^ Zalewski, Daniel; Bradford, Harry (November 28, 2016). "The Factory of Fakes". The New Yorker: 75, 77.

External links[edit]

Media related to Nativity with St. Francis and St. Lawrence by Caravaggio at Wikimedia Commons