Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, Nativity with St. Francis and St. Lawrence, 1600, oil on canvas, 106 x 78".

New Information Offered on Famous 1969 Theft of Caravaggio Painting

In a testimony to the Italian Parliament’s Standing Commission on Organized Crime, Gaetano Grado, a mafia member turned informant, provided information in regard to one of Italy’s most notorious art heists: the 1969 theft of Caravaggio’s Nativity with St. Francis and St. Lawrence, 1600, which was taken from an oratory in Palermo, Sicily. According to Giusi Diana of the Art Newspaper, the painting was originally stolen by low-level crooks. When the mafia got wind of the robbery through the media and found out about the work’s value, the group made it known that it wanted the painting. It was then presented to Gaetano Badalamenti, the head of the Sicilian mafia commission more commonly known as the Cupola, which mediates disputes between sparring mafia families. A Swiss dealer subsequently purchased the work. Badalamenti then told Grado that the painting would be cut into four pieces so that it could be safely sent abroad.

Through photographs, Grado identified the dealer, who is now dead. The dealer’s name, however, has yet to be released.