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Requisitioned Rubens

January 7, 2023
A painting showing Jesus draped in a red robe appearing to his mother Mary, who is kneeling in front of him along with another woman while cherubs peek out from behind a cloud in the upper left-hand corner

The Resurrected Christ Appears to his Mother by Peter Paul Rubens

A painting by Peter Paul Reubens in relatively good condition is by no means worthless. Yet the owners of one of his religious scenes are currently under investigation for trying to milk a bit more cash out of it. On December 30th, the painting The Resurrected Christ Appears to his Mother was confiscated by Italy’s Carabinieri to investigate a smuggling and money laundering scheme meant to increase the work’s value.

Resurrected Christ has been hanging at the Palazzo Ducale in Genoa since early October 2022 as part of a Rubens exhibition. Rubens published a book of sketches of Genoa’s palaces in 1622, so staging this exhibition in one of these palaces was rather appropriate. The painting is currently attributed to Rubens and his workshop, but some disagree with this assessment. Some art historians doubt whether the work was created by Rubens since little documentary evidence attests to this attribution. Resurrected Christ, currently insured for €4 million (or $4.27 million), was previously owned by the Cambiaso family, a prominent family from Genoa who once occupied the palace where the Rubens exhibition is being staged. The family sold it to the current owners in 2012 for €300K. The new owners’ shady dealings started not long after, when, in 2014, they exported the work to Prague, claiming it was by an unknown Flemish artist and only worth €25K. Later on, the owners allegedly founded several companies abroad to pass the Rubens back and forth, orchestrating fake sales to artificially increase the painting’s value.

Only a few days after the Carabinieri seized the painting, it was returned to the Palazzo Ducale, and will remain there until the Rubens exhibition ends on February 5th. It is likely that the painting may be seized again sometime in the future as part of the investigation, but currently, its future remains uncertain.