ROME (AP) – A British art collector who bought a pair of 17th century marble angels from a Neapolitan antiques store two decades ago, returned the winged putti to the Italian art police after learning they had been stolen from the church.
Italian carabinieri police said an unnamed collector tried to resell the angels at an antique shop in Avignon, France, prior to his planned move from France to Portugal, when the French art police flagged them as possible stolen goods.
Italian art police said on Tuesday that angels decorated with a vine of leaves and fruits were stolen from the Church of Saint Sebastian in Guardia Sanframondi, northeast of Naples, on December 13, 1989. The police said the collector was unaware of this. angels and offered to return them without any legal battle.
They were officially handed over to Italy on Tuesday at a ceremony at the French embassy.
In a statement, the carabinieri noted that churches in the area were subject to numerous thefts after the earthquake in Irpenia in 1980 razed vast areas in southern Italy to the ground.
Police noted that another group of angels, who were also reported to have been abducted from the carabinieri database, were recently returned to another Guardia Sanframondi church after they were discovered in a Milan antiques store and recognized as the church’s pastor.